BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Erica Trahan overcame an ankle injury to help Jackson State end a lengthy NCAA tournament drought.
Trahan shook off a sprained ankle and a relentless Prairie View A&M team to help No. 2 Jackson State win the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament championship 63-61 on Saturday.
In denying the Lady Panthers their second straight SWAC crown, the Lady Tigers' earned their first trip to the NCAAs since 1995.
"I was kind of worried because I heard a pop," said Trahan who was selected tournament MVP after scoring 17 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. "I was telling the trainers, 'Just tape me up, my team needs me right now.' It was time to play hurt. There's only one game [left]."
Jackson State (18-13) built an early comfortable lead by forcing top-seeded Prairie View (22-11) into 20 turnovers and converting those into 27 points. The Lady Tigers also made a commitment to getting back on defense, limiting the high-tempo Lady Panthers to just eight transition points.
Prairie View coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke said Jackson State was being aggressive.
"They were doing what they are supposed to do," she said. "I taught them in pregame, I taught them a week ago, I taught them two weeks ago, if we attack we'll be fine. If we are tentative, we will turn the ball over and that's exactly what happened."
The Lady Tigers held a comfortable lead throughout until Trahan went down with a sprained ankle with 14 minutes left and Jackson State up seven. The Lady Panthers scored the next seven points, setting off a flurry of back-and-forth action in which there were six lead changes.
"Both times we played them we went to overtime," Jackson State coach Denise Taylor said. "At every time out, I just reminded them, 'You've been here before.' We know we're good. We know our defense is good. And all we needed to do was stay poised."
But the Tigers survived that exchange and desperation 3s by the Panthers to earn the automatic bid. Senior LaSharee Christian controlled the tempo for the Lady Tigers with 11 points, seven rebounds and six assists while playing all 40 minutes.
Shavonne Smith scored 18 points and Chari Smith added 13 for Prairie View, which was without All-SWAC performer Gaati Werema who sprained her knee in the semifinals.