The Lady Flames (30-2) will enter the Gulf South Conference next season as they continue their move to NCAA Division II competition. It also marks the first time the Lee ladies claimed the tourney title since March, 2009.
Lee never trailed in posting the 76-60 victory. Coach Marty Rowe’s team enjoyed a 37-28 lead at the halftime break and played almost 12 minutes of the opening frame with SSAC Player of the Year Hollie German on the bench with two personal fouls.
The Hornets’ only real threat came midway of the second half when Sarah Ogoke began heating up and finished the contest with 20 points. Lee’s defense, paced by Rachel Lockhart, held Ogoke to only one point in the first 20 minutes.
Sophomore Jenna Adams earned the tournament’s MVP honors by collecting her 14th double-double of the season. Adams finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds. She also blocked three shots and came up with two steals. German, who got off to a quick start in the first half by scoring 10 points in just over eight minutes, tallied 20 points and joined Adams and Karley Miller on the all-tournament team. Miller completed an excellent tourney with nine points and eight rebounds as the Lady Flames won the battle of the boards 44-35.
Mariah Iles had eight points and three boards before leaving the game with five fouls and Julia Zimmerman stepped up with a pair of 3-pointers to help shut down a Southern Poly rally with some seven minutes remaining. Mary Jackson came off the bench to grab five rebounds and senior Brooke Hamby dished off eight assists to go along with five rebounds and two points.
“I’m just so happy for this group,” said an emotional coach Marty Rowe after the victory. “I can’t say enough about the leadership that our seniors (Hamby, Zimmerman and Jackson) have supplied. The way Rachel (Lockhart) has battled through injuries is an inspiration to us all.” Lockhart scored five points but she took several charges and had two assists, two blocks and a pair of steals.
Lee held the Hornets to only 31 percent shooting overall and just 23 percent from behind the arc. With Ogoke on the sidelines with foul problems, Ashlie Billingslea stepped up and scored 25 points. Arnissa Galloway countered with nine points and 10 rebounds.
Lee’s offense was efficient in every phase of the game. Rowe’s crew shot 41 percent from the field, 44 percent from behind the arc, and converted 25-of-30 free-throw attempts.
“After shooting free throws poorly last night, I had no doubt that these girls would step up to the line and do the job tonight,” Rowe allowed.
The Lady Flames will wait anxiously for the NAIA National Tournament draw, which will be held on Wednesday. The event is scheduled for Frankfort, Ky. beginning on March 13.
“I believe the way we played late in the season and in this tournament will give our girls some confidence in the national,” pointed out Rowe. “We will take a few days off and then go back to work after we find out who our first round opponent will be.”