FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Another overtime win sent Florida Gulf Coast back to the NCAA tournament.
Tournament MVP Jenna Cobb scored 19 points, Kaneisha Atwater added 14 points and 11 rebounds, and the top-seeded Eagles found a way to stave off two late rallies and beat Stetson 72-70 in overtime Sunday for the Atlantic Sun title and an automatic berth into the NCAA field. It's the second NCAA trip in three years for FGCU.
"I'm proud of our team," FGCU coach Karl Smesko said. "They were able to pull out this game and keep their composure and play so well during the overtime period."
FGCU has only been eligible for the NCAA's since 2012. The Eagles went to the tournament that season, then lost to Stetson in last year's A-Sun title game and settled for a trip to the WNIT.
This time, they got what they wanted — and needed five extra minutes to get there, just as they did on March 8 at Stetson, when an overtime win gave the Eagles the regular-season title and chance to host the A-Sun title game.
"It's great for women's basketball," Stetson coach Lynn Bria said of the rivalry. "You've got two teams battling, it's back and forth. It's like a dogfight out there. This is good. It's a little better for them because they came out on the upper end."
Sarah Hansen scored 13 for the Eagles (26-7), who were down nine early in the second half. Hansen made one of two free throws with 3 seconds left, and FGCU escaped when Brianti Saunders' 3-point try for second-seeded Stetson (26-7) missed at the buzzer.
And now the FGCU women get a chance to do what FGCU's men did last year — pull off some upsets and gain tons of notoriety. FGCU's men went to the Sweet Sixteen last season as a No. 15 seed.
"It's important for our university as a whole," Hansen said. "The attention that an NCAA run, an NCAA game can bring to our university, especially being such a young university is a huge advantage."
Sasha Sims scored 14 for Stetson, including a basket with 9 seconds left in regulation that tied the game at 60-all. Jama Sharp scored 13 and Cherisse Burris and Myeisha Hall each scored 12 points for the Hatters.