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Mocs make it

Chattanooga downs Greensboro for SoCon title

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Posted: Sunday March 04, 2001 4:42 PM

 

GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) -- Was she or wasn't she? "I thought if I jumped, I could hang in the air for a while," said Chattanooga's Damita Bullock, the Southern Conference player of the year. "That's what I did."

However, it looked on TV that Bullock's feet came down out of bounds before she made the critical pass that led to Nneka Irons' 3-pointer -- her only basket of the game -- with 22.6 seconds left that sent the Lady Mocs to a 64-63 victory over North Carolina Greensboro and into the NCAA tournament as Southern Conference champions.

Lady Mocs coach Wes Moore, who's returned Chattanooga to the NCAAs for the first time since 1992, said from his angle along the baseline, "it looked like she was still in the air."

"There are probably hundreds of calls made in the game, and that one came in the last few seconds," he said. It was just in time for Irons, a sophomore starter who had taken only two shots in 23 minutes. She swished the game winner from the right corner. "I guess I was the right person at the right time," Irons said.

North Carolina Greensboro (22-8) had a final chance, but Samika Foster's shot from right of the lane bounced off the rim.

"I thought went I shot it, it was going in," said Foster, her eyes red.

"I kind of thought so, too," said Spartans coach Lynne Agee, her voice sobbing as she spoke.

Agee, whose bench was opposite end of the court during the final play, had little to say about Bullock being out of bounds. "I wasn't personally aware of it," she said. "What can I say? I wish I had the call."

It looked like the Spartans had their second Southern title in four years when Sandi Reid banked in a short jumper to put them up 63-61 with 39.8 seconds left.

But when Irons made her only shot, "what else can you do," Agee said. "That's somebody making a big play."

Irons said it was difficult to keep her focus during the game at times because she wasn't that involved. She cleared her head in the final moments and made sure to get herself open. "I just have to keep telling myself, stay in the game, make a big play, step up and hit a big shot," she said.

There was none bigger for the Lady Mocs, who will try and end the league's 0-12 NCAA tournament mark.

Moore said with his team's RPI hovering in the mid-to-low 40s, "I think we have a good chance of getting a chance to play someone on a neutral court instead of at home. That could be very good for us."

The last time Chattanooga made the NCAAs, it fell to Clemson, 76-72, in the first round of the East Regional in 1992.

It was the second straight time North Carolina Greensboro reached the conference finals only to come up short.

The Spartans led 48-41 on Foster's back-to-back 3-pointers with 14:02 remaining.

But Chattanooga, the league's regular season champions, tightened up its defense during a 15-6 run.

Bullock and Jennifer Wilson each had two baskets apiece and Tishay Lewis scored five points in the charge.

North Carolina Greensboro committed six turnovers and was made only 2 of 11 shots during the same stretch.

The Spartans recovered to take the lead, 61-60 on Foster's foul shot with 1:21 left. Bullock came back with a foul shot to set up the exciting final sequence.

Wilson and Lewis were Chattanooga's leading scorers with 14 points each.

ChoRhonda Gwaltney, the tournament's Most Valuable Player, led the Spartans with 15 points.

"Coming down the hall, everyone was saying, 'Good game,'" North Carolina Greensboro's Agee said. "This wasn't a good game. Not for us."


 
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