2:00 PM ET, March 3, 2007
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Western Carolina coach Kellie Harper knows something about title teams -- and she couldn't understand those who doubted Chattanooga's championship chances this season."What in the world are you looking at?" asked Harper, who won three NCAA titles as Tennessee's point guard from 1996-98.On Saturday, Chattanooga looked more like Southern Conference champions after an 84-66 win over Western Carolina. Alex Anderson scored 30 points and the Lady Mocs used a late run to earn their sixth league title in seven years.Chattanooga has long been the class of the Southern Conference and improved to 11-0 in championship games since 1984. But this season, the Lady Mocs were picked behind Western Carolina, had lost both regular-season games to the Lady Catamounts and were seeded second here this week."I probably doubted them some this year," Chattanooga coach Wes Moore said.Instead, Laura Hall and Brooke Hand hit 3-pointers to start a 22-4 closing run and send the Lady Mocs (25-7) back to the NCAA Tournament."I can't believe what's happened here the last seven or eight years," Moore said.Not that this latest title came easily.Anderson's steady shooting kept Chattanooga ahead much of the game. But Lauren Powell hit a 3-pointer for Western Carolina with 5:44 to go that tied it at 62.Brooke Hand and Laura Hall each followed with 3-pointers to put the Lady Mocs ahead for good, and by the time Jenaya Wade-Fray completed a three-point play with 2:35 left, Chattanooga was up 73-62.Western Carolina, the only team to interrupt Chattanooga's championship run with its 2005 SoCon tournament title, couldn't catch up. When the buzzer sounded, Hall leaped in celebration and was quickly mobbed by teammates."We just wanted it so bad," said Anderson, with one of the championship game nets hanging around her neck. "People didn't think we could do it. But we did it."Nothing went right at the end for the Lady Catamounts. They missed their next five shots after Powell's 3-pointer. With the game out of reach, Brooke Johnson's shot wedged between the rim and the basket for yet another turnover."I really did not feel like we played extremely well," Harper said.Western Carolina came in having won 15 of 16 games. Now, the team awaits a chance at the WNIT or a longshot at-large NCAA selection."If it wasn't for one night, we'd be in" the NCAAs, Western's Brooke Johnson said.Anderson shot 13-of-18 from the field, and scored 93 points in the three games against Western Carolina this season. Hall finished with 18 points, and Hand added 15. The pair were a combined 6-of-11 on 3-pointers.Powell and Johnson led the Lady Catamounts with 14 points each.Chattanooga is the only Southern Conference team to have any NCAA success. League teams had lost 15 straight first-round games before the Lady Mocs upset Rutgers in the 2004 NCAA Tournament before falling to Vanderbilt.A season ago, 12th-seeded Chattanooga lost to Kentucky in a first-round game.The first half turned into a shooting showdown between Anderson and Johnson.Anderson shot 7-of-10 for 18 points in the opening period, while Johnson was 6-of-7 for 14 points.Whenever Anderson made a play down the stretch that threatened to spark a Chattanooga run, Johnson would answer on the other end for the Lady Catamounts.Anderson hit two foul shots and then an inside layup to extend the Lady Mocs lead to 36-31 with 1:24 left. But Johnson followed with a 3-pointer to draw Western Carolina back into it.Moore, his blue dress shirt soaked through after the title celebration, was proud of how far his team had come, something he wasn't sure he believed either.His team had lost twice in its first six SoCon games and Moore wasn't banking on another league title."But these kids know how to win," he said. "They have hearts of champions."
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Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||29-56 (.518)||27-59 (.458)|
|3P Made-Attempted||6-19 (.316)||6-13 (.462)|
|FT Made-Attempted||20-24 (.833)||6-12 (.500)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||13 (0/0)||23 (0/0)|