FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Nova Southeastern its second consecutive South Region title, taking the lead with under a minute left and holding on by three against Tampa on Monday night at the NSU Arena, 56-53.
The Sharks (28-4) move on to the NCAA quarterfinals in Erie, Pa., to take on the Central Region's No. 7 seed, Concordia-St. Paul. The 28-8 Golden Bears pulled off three major upsets to win the region, knocking off No. 2-seeded Harding (No. 2 in the nation), third-seeded Central Missouri (No. 8) and top seed Emporia State (No. 7). Their matchup will take place March 25.
On Monday, there were nine lead changes in the second half alone, but none bigger than Richelle Carach's driving lay-in with 33 seconds left to give the Sharks a 54-53 lead. On Tampa's ensuing possession, Keke Jones drove baseline, where a waiting Carach took the charge to give the Sharks the ball back with 6.1 to go.
With 5.0 seconds on the clock, Amanda Burakoski made two free throws to put the Sharks up three. On the in-bound, up three, NSU immediately fouled UT guard Diamond Posey, who was making her first appearance in the game. With just 3.0 seconds to go, she missed the front end of the one-and-one, and Jessica Russi pulled down the rebound and dribbled out the clock for the win.
Russi paced the Sharks with a season-high 19 points, adding eight assists, four rebounds and three steals, while only committing one turnover. She went 6 of 7 from the free-throw line, and was the only NSU player in double digits. Jasmine Wilkins had nine points and eight rebounds, Burakoski nine points and seven boards, and Carach eight points.
In the game, the Sharks took points in the paint 34-16, and won points off turnovers 22-8. Their bench outscored their Tampa counterparts 30-10, buoyed by Russi's 19.
Tampa (24-7) was held to 36 percent shooting and committed 17 turnovers. Juliana Cavallaro had the team's high with 13 points, while Ellen Nurmi added 11. The Sharks held Shamika Williams and Illyssa Vivo to a combined shooting line of 4 of 21.
Williams and Cavallaro of Tampa, and Burakoski and Russi of NSU made up the South Region All-Tournament Team, along with Most Outstanding Player Taylor Buie.