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ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Jasmine Joyner's free throw with 3.9 seconds remaining — and a Mercer miss as time expired — helped Chattanooga cap a ferocious fourth-quarter rally to win a record fifth-straight Southern Conference Tournament Championship 61-59 on Sunday.
Joyner, named the tournament MVP, was the lone player from either team to have played the entire 40 minutes. She scored 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting, went 4 of 5 at the line and had 15 rebounds with four assists as the Mocs (21-10) made up a 10-point gap in the fourth quarter.
Chattanooga advances to its 15th NCAA Tournament.
"We changed defenses and we started to pick up a little energy," Chattanooga coach Jim Foster said. He praised the play of Queen Alford. "Queen is an energy force for us off the bench. When she gets on fire, you keep going her way. She felt it, and you could sense it. The players sensed it and she came up with some big baskets."
Alford scored 13 points — 11 in the pivotal final quarter with a pair of 3-pointers as well as converting a 3-point play.
"I just said to myself, 'When I go in there, I am going to give it everything that I have.' And that is what I did," Alford said.
Joyner's 15th rebound was critical as Mercer's swarming defense down the stretch forced three turnovers in the last 1:17. Chattanooga held a 60-59 lead with 16 seconds remaining and called a 30-second timeout. Mercer's Alex Williams intercepted the inbounds pass in front of the Mocs' bench and flashed downcourt, dishing off to Kahlia Lawrence who found a lane and drove to the basket. Her layup attempt bounced around the top the iron and rolled off with Joyner grabbing the rebound and getting fouled.
She made 1 of 2 and Mercer's final shot, a long 2, bounced twice on the rim but didn't fall in.
KeKe Calloway, who buried a deep 3 to make it a one-point game with 17 seconds left, led Mercer (25-6) with 25 points, hitting seven 3s, and Lawrence scored 22.
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