DECATUR, Ga. – Junior captain Alexis Lee (Akron, Ohio) hit a three-pointer with just 46 seconds remaining in the game as she helped the three-seeded Gators to the 66-61 victory over two-seed Salem in Saturday's Great South Athletic Conference (GSAC) semifinal.
Lee, who led the team with 15 points, was one of four Gators in double figures. Joining her with 10+ points were co-captain Maria Vaughan (Okinawa, Japan), freshman Erica Jones (Atlanta, Ga.), and junior Sybil Lynch (Hoboken, N.J.). Jones was also the team's top rebounder with six.
Junior Quantashea Lewis (Charlotte, N.C.) led all scorers with 26 points. She also grabbed 10 rebounds to complete a double-double. Sophomore forward Sabrina Shepherd (Selma, N.C.) and senior Zykeya Henderson (Inman, S.C.) contributed 11 and 10 points respectively. Senior Kristal Lollis (Oberlin, La.) led all rebounders with 11.
Lewis, the Spirits lone representative on the All-Conference team, helped her team build a 13-8 lead early on as she scored all but three of her team's first 13 points.
The Gators clawed their way back into the game over the next six minutes. With just over eight minutes remaining, Cadejia Matthews-Austin (Boston, Mass.) hit a big three to get her team within two. A minute later, Franklin would knock down a pair of free throws to tie the game at 18.
Lynch finally gave the Gators the lead back when she hit a three-pointer at the 6:31 mark. That three sparked an 11-2 run that allowed Pine Manor to stretch its advantage to seven. PMC would get the lead up to eight and went into the locker room ahead 34-26.
Pine Manor outshot Salem 48.1 percent to 30 percent in the first half with the biggest advantage coming from three-point land where the Spirits were just 1-for-9 (11.1 percent). Salem's ability to take advantage of their opponents' mistakes helped keep them in the game as they scored 14 points off of 15 Gator turnovers.
Salem started off quickly in the second half opening up with a 17-6 run, once again with Lewis doing much of the damage. The junior forward scored eight during the run. She capped the run off with a pair of free throws to give the Spirits the 42-41 lead.
The game remained tight down the stretch with neither team able to open up more than a three-point gap.
With just over a minute remaining in the half, Jones found a cutting Lynch on a nice bounce pass. The junior guard was able to lay it in on the left side and draw the foul, energizing the large contingent of Gator fans who made the trip. After she converted the three-point play to give Pine Manor the 59-57 edge, Henderson tied it up at the other end.
On the Gators' next possession Jones found Lee for the three-pointer that would give Pine Manor the lead for good. Pine Manor, which went 10-for-12 from the line, made all four of its free throws down the stretch and punched a ticket into the conference championship.
Pine Manor improves to 12-9 on the year. Salem finishes off their season with a 9-14 record.
The Gators will play the four-seed Agnes Scott in the championship game at 1 p.m. tomorrow as the host Scotties knocked off top-seeded Salem in the other semifinal.
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