Lebanon, Tenn. – Shawnee State women's basketball clinched their second consecutive and third overall Mid-South Conference Regular Season Championship on Saturday afternoon, surviving a furious second half comeback to defeat #19 Cumberland (Tenn.) 72-69.
The Bears dominated the first half, jumping out to an 8-2 lead quickly. Shawnee State continued to build their lead throughout the first quarter before two Hannah Miller (SO/Coal Grove, Ohio) free throws put SSU up 24-12 to end the first quarter. The second quarter was more of the same as Cumberland had no answer for Jonessa Moore (SR/Cincinnati, Ohio), who would score 11 points in the half. Ashton Lovely (SO/Jamestown, Ohio) would come on for Shawnee and put up 11 of her own, helping the Bears build a 17-point advantage, leading 43-26 at halftime.
The second half was a completely different story as Cumberland would rise from the halftime ashes to mount a heroic comeback on their senior day. Julia Fox would cause a great deal of grief for Shawnee State throughout the second half, hitting four threes and shooting 7-of-14 from the field. Cumberland would outscore Shawnee State 25-13 in the period as Shawnee State's offense went cold.
The fourth quarter would be a back and forth affair as Shawnee State would try to hold on for the win. Cumberland would get a three from Fox and a layup from Taliah Moore to tie the game at 56. Lovely would sink two free throws, but Janisha Lindsey would tie the game back up immediately. After two free throws from Madison Ridout (JR/Jackson, Ohio), Lindsey would hit a circus shot to get the game immediately tied again. Ridout would hit a three, and the two teams would trade free throws until Taliah Moore's two shots would tie the game again.
In the last two minutes, Lovely would hit a three with 1:35 to go to put Shawnee State up 68-65, but Fox would respond with a three of her own to re-tie the game. Fox would then make one out of two shots at the line to give Cumberland a 69-68 lead. However, with Cumberland ratcheting up the defensive pressure, Bailey Cummins (FR/Brooksville, Kentucky) would be fouled and would hit both free throws to give Shawnee State the lead back at 70-69. On the next possession, Fox would turn the ball over to Lovely, who would be fouled and hit two free shots to seal the Shawnee State win and give them the conference title.
Ashton Lovely led the balanced Shawnee State attack for the second game in a row, scoring 18 points in the win. Jonessa Moore scored 15 points and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds to help the cause.
Julia Fox had a game and career high 24 points to lead Cumberland. Taliah Moore added 12 and Janisha Lindsey had 10 to help the Phoenix nearly pull off the upset.
With the win, Shawnee State improves to 28-2 and are 13-1 to end the Mid-South Conference regular season. Cumberland falls to 15-11 and are 4-10 in the league.
The win clinched a share of the Mid-South Conference Regular Season Championship for Shawnee State for the second season in a row. SSU will share the title with Lindsey Wilson this season, after the Blue Raiders defeated Georgetown on Saturday afternoon to also end the year 13-1 in the MSC. Shawnee State will have the #1 seed in the Mid-South Tournament due to owning the point differential tiebreaker with Lindsey Wilson.
Shawnee State will kick off the Mid-South Conference Tournament on Thursday, March 2nd when they play eight seed Life. Tipoff is scheduled for 2:00pm at the Frankfort Convention Center in Frankfort, Kentucky.