2:00 PM ET, March 10, 2007
ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- Betsy Blose, desperate for a post players after going 3-25 in her first season as coach at UNC Asheville, began to recruit little-known Amanda Elder.Only she thought her name was Amber."Actually, she called me my wrong name on my visit," Elder said. "But my dad pretty much pushed this school and I wanted to help turn things around."Four years later, everyone in the Big South Conference knows Elder's name -- and soon the NCAA Tournament will know UNC Asheville for the first time.Elder scored 14 of her 16 points in the second half and UNC Asheville qualified for its first NCAA Tournament with a 67-57 win over Radford on Saturday in the Big South championship game."My assistants won't let me forget that mistake," Blose said before turning to Elder. "Thanks, Amber."Elder's 3-pointer with 4:16 left put the Bulldogs ahead 57-51, and her jumper with just under a minute remaining made it 61-55. She hit 9 of 15 free throws and grabbed nine rebounds.The senior was named tournament MVP and walked into the media room late after the game, camera in tow. She had been determined to first take a picture to make sure the Bulldogs were headed into the NCAA Tournament, even if it means a first-round matchup with a power like North Carolina."It'll probably sink in when we're down 10 to UNC and trying to come back," Elder said.League freshman of the year Kyla Jones added 11 points and 11 rebounds for the fourth-seeded Bulldogs (21-11), who pulled away late on their home floor to secure their first NCAA bid 21 years after the school moved to Division I and four years removed from that 3-win season."I don't think I've ever had a team that deserved victory more," Blose said. "It was one of those fairy tale seasons. The ending was perfect."Kelli Darden scored 14 points and Corrie Fertitta added 12 points and six rebounds for the second-seeded Highlanders (20-11), who ended Liberty's 10-year reign as conference champion with a buzzer-beating win over the Flames a day earlier.But Radford, which had won seven straight league titles prior to Liberty's dominance, ran out of gas against the Bulldogs, who overcame 23 turnovers by outrebounding Radford 44-27. The Highlanders led the league in total rebounds during the regular season."I think our last three or four regular season games we were scoring more points and I think that took away some of our focus on rebounding," Radford coach Jeri Porter said. "We did not do the job on the boards that we had been doing all season. We thought that was going to be one of the bigger keys of the game."Darden, who hit the game-winning layup at the buzzer Friday against Liberty, was hounded inside all game by Elder and Stacy Shepard. Darden shot 6-for-12 and grabbed five rebounds, and Fertitta was just 5-for-18 from the field for Radford, which was appearing in its league-record 11th title game."I was trying to do the best I could. Every time I caught the ball I had two or three players around me," said Darden, who with four blocks finished with 85 on the season, a new league record. "They were just swarming on us. They knew our post players were our strong point and they did their best to take that away from us."There were 13 lead changes in the first 9 minutes of the second half before the Bulldogs opened up a 49-45 lead on Ana Baker's 3-pointer and Jones' three-point play on consecutive possessions.Radford wasn't able to draw even again, and the Highlanders attempted 22 fewer free throws and committed 19 turnovers."I'm so proud of this team and this program," Blose said. "That first year was really, really tough. But we had that vision of what we wanted to be."
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Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||22-49 (.449)||23-58 (.397)|
|3P Made-Attempted||5-12 (.417)||6-17 (.353)|
|FT Made-Attempted||18-30 (.600)||5-9 (.556)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||12 (0/0)||21 (0/0)|