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By Rob Schabert, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Trailing nearly the entire game, Jacksonville State scored a basket as the buzzer sounded that lifted the upstart Gamecocks to a stunning 57-56 victory over Tennessee Tech Thursday afternoon, ending the Golden Eagles visit to the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.
No. 6 seeded JSU (14-17) advances to the semifinals Friday, while Tennessee Tech , seeded No. 3 in the tournament, ends the 2013-14 season with a 12-18 overall record.
The Golden Eagles appeared to have dodged a mortar attack in the final 6.6 seconds, leading by one point and playing defense against the vastly improved Gamecocks. Tech defenders forced a missed shot on Detany McLin's drive, and sophomore Mariah Dean grabbed the defensive rebound to clinch the win.
But…Briana Benson was able to pull the ball from Dean's grasp and fire up a layup, the ball going through the rim as the buzzer sounded. Officials reviewed the shot, and ruled it good for the game-winner. It was Benson's only basket of the day.
McLin had scored two free throws with 1:44 left to play to pull JSU within one at 54-53, but Tech had gone back on top by three on a jumper by Diamond Henderson with 38 seconds to play.
Once again, McLin marched to the free throw line with 25 seconds left and hit both to make it a 56-55 Tech lead.
Henderson was fouled at midcourt with 12 seconds left, and since Tech had never made it to the double bonus, the junior guard went to the line for a one-and-one. Her shot missed and JSU called its final timeout with 6.6 seconds left after the Golden Eagles had punched the ball out of bounds on the Gamecocks' offensive end of the floor.
The pass went in to McLin, who drove the right side of the lane but threw up an errant shot against good defensive pressure.
That's when Benson got the chance to beat the buzzer, and made it, igniting a celebration on the JSU bench. The celebration was put on hold for several minutes, until officials reviewed the play and made their ruling in favor of the Gamecocks.
Henderson led all scorers with 21 points on 9-for-15 shooting, and also had a game-high six assists. She also had five rebounds.Despite her best efforts to get to the glass, she made it to the free throw line for only four shots.
Junior Candace Parson had 12 points and six rbounds, while freshman Cat Taylor finished with eight points, including a crucial 3-pointer with 2:51 to play that put Tech ahead, 54-59.
Senior Molly Heady had five points in the contest, ending her Golden Eagle career with 988 points. Kayla Brewer also closed her Tech career, finishing with six rebounds and adding two more blocked shots to her single-season school record total, which wound up at 61.
McLin was 8-for-9 at the free throw line and finished with 18 points and five rebounds to top JSU, while Candace Morton added 16 points.
Tech shot 66.7 percent (14-for-21) in the second half, finishing the game at 51.1 percent (24-for-47). The Golden Eagles were just 5-for-8 at the free throw line.
JSU shot 38 percent (19-for-50) for the game, but took advantage at the free throw line by hitting 16-for-20 (80 percent).