HOUSTON (AP) Britney Wright scored 17 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and was named MVP as Alabama State advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight year with a 55-51 win over Southern in the Southwestern Athletic Association championship game on Saturday.
The top-seeded Hornets (19-11) never trailed but saw a 16-point lead early in the second half cut to two with a minute to play.
Alabama State beat the Jaguars 73-55 in last year's finale for its first title in 11 seasons and Wright was the MVP.
Southern (19-11), the league co-champion but seeded second, missed its last three shots after Briana Green's basket with 1:06 made it 53-51. Green was fouled on the play but missed the free throw. That was as close as the Jaguars had been since trailing 3-2.
Jasmine Peeples, with 30.6 seconds left, and Wright, at 11.6 seconds, each made 1 of 2 from the line as the Hornets hung on.
Alabama State ended the first half with a 7-0 run, taking a 35-22 lead on a 3-pointer by Daniele Ewert with five seconds left. It was her fourth 3 in five attempts and gave her 12 points. The Hornets shot 48 percent with five 3s while Southern was 0 for 4 behind the arc and shot 35 percent.
Green, who finished with 16 points, and Cortnei Purnell, who totaled 11, had seven points apiece in the third quarter when the jaguars outscored Alabama State, which made just 4 of 11 shots and had six turnovers, 18-11 to close within 46-40.
Southern was within four with the ball with seven minutes to play, but Wright had a 3-point play and after a Jaguar turnover, Peeples, a 47-percent free throw shooter, swished a pair to push the Hornets' lead to 51-42 with six minutes left. Another Southern miss led to two free throws by Elisha Jones to make it 53-42 with 5:31 left.
But the Hornets missed five shots and had four turnovers after that and the Jaguars inched back. Britney Washington cut it to nine, Ashley Williams converted a 3-point play and Miaya Crowder had a putback with 1:47 left, leading up to Green's bucket.
Southern: The Jags shared the league title with the Hornets and Texas Southern with 14-4 records, the first time three teams shared the title since 1994-95. ... Southern shot 35 percent (18 of 51) but was 1 of 9 from 3-point range. ... Green led with four assists, Crowder and Purnell combined for 15 rebounds.
Alabama State: The Hornets have four titles, three under coach Freda Freeman-Jackson. ... The Hornets shot just 5 for 20 in the second half but made 9 of 11 free throws. ASU was the No. 1 seed for the first time in 14 seasons. ... The Hornets lost to Florida State in the NCAA Tournament last year and the league is 0-24.
Southern's season is over.
Alabama State awaits NCAA Tournament pairings announcement on Monday.