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Holy Cross holds off American for Patriot League tourney title

WORCESTER, Mass. -- Bethany O'Dell scored 20 points, including 14 in the second half, to rally Holy Cross to a 56-48 victory over American in the Patriot League tournament championship game for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

With an NCAA bid in hand but a losing record to go with it, Holy Cross likely will be the 16-seed that gets paired with No. 1 overall Duke on Selection Monday. But to the Patriot League champ, being No. 1 or No. 64 matters less than being one of 64, writes Graham Hays. Story

Kaitlin Foley added 14 points and 15 rebounds for Holy Cross (15-17). The Crusaders trailed 29-19 at the half, but O'Dell and Brianna McFadden, who finished with 14 points, made back-to-back field goals to start a 14-4 run.

With top-seeded Bucknell and No. 2 Army upset in the quarterfinals, third-seeded Holy Cross was able to host the championship game.

"No one thought we'd be in the Hart Center cutting down our own nets," said Foley, a senior captain.

Liz Hayes led American (13-19) with 14 points.

A 3-pointer from O'Dell, who made five 3-pointers in the second half and six of 12 overall, tied the game at 33 with 14:01 remaining.

American's Stephanie N'Garsanet scored to put the Eagles ahead, beginning a stretch of 9:48 during which there were five ties and seven lead changes.

With the score tied at 44, O'Dell connected on a 3-pointer in transition. On Holy Cross' next possession, O'Dell made another 3 to give the Crusaders a 50-44 lead.

Holy Cross hit its last six shots from the floor to put the game away.

It was the third meeting between the teams this season, each winning on its home floor during the regular season.