Troy women stun Little Rock 61-60 for Sun Belt title
NEW ORLEANS (AP) The dream came so close to being a nightmare.
Ashley Beverly Kelley scored with 20.2 seconds to play and Caitlyn Ramirez blocked a layup with one second left and fourth-seeded Troy shocked defending Sun Belt champion Little Rock 61-60 on Saturday to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history.
Troy (20-12), coming off a 96-89 upset over top-seeded Arkansas State in the semifinals, took the lead when Kelley Beverly stepped just inside the free-throw line and knocked down a jumper.
Little Rock (20-12), the second seed with a 15-game winning streak, elected to play the final seconds out and Monique Townson drove down the left side of the lane and put up a left-handed shot that Ramirez deftly blocked as time expired.
''This is a dream come true,'' Troy coach Chanda Rigby said. ''I grew up about 60 miles from here, right across Lake Ponchartrain. I was dreaming this dream back there growing up on the farm. It's been a long road and tonight, this tournament, has been amazing, and the performance of these players has been amazing.''
Beverly Kelley finished with 17 points and Arjae' Saunders had 21 for Troy, which made its only other appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 1997.
Sharde' Collins had 19 points and Shanity James had 15 and 11 rebounds for Little Rock, which was seeking its fifth NCAA berth.
''We had 10 to 20 seconds to get down the floor, people were moving around, and I thought we had somebody open in the paint but the guard didn't see her,'' Little Rock coach Joe Foley said. ''I just kept waiting to see if we were going to hit it and we didn't. But usually something will develop better than if you let them get their defense set.''
Beverly Kelley hit two free throws with 1:46 to play for a 59-58 Troy lead but Collins quickly answered.
Then Claresa Banks missed two free throws at 53 seconds for Troy - which was 43 of 51 from the line in three tournament games, including 13 of 17 in this one - but Saunders stole the ball, leading to Beverly Kelley's jumper.
''At this point I knew that this was the time to take the shot,'' Beverly Kelley said. ''All the years that I have been here at Troy, I feel like I have shied away from the last shot. But (the coaches) always talked about not being afraid to take the shot. And I felt like I had to put my team on my back and I knew that if the ball was in my hands it was going to go in.
''I wasn't afraid. And if we were going to lose, it was going to be because of me, and if we won, it was going to be because of me.''
Troy: The previous NCAA appearance came after winning the Mid-Continent (now Summit League) Tournament. ... The Trojans had 18 turnovers and only went 2 of 14 from 3-point range. ... The turnovers only led to 15 points while Troy got 21 points after the 16 Little Rock giveaways. ... Ramirez had six rebounds and three blocks. ... La'Tia Fils-Aime' hit 5 of 6 shots and scored 10 points off the bench.
Little Rock: The Trojans only shot 38 percent from the field (23 of 61), 4 of 13 behind the arc. Kaitlyn Pratt had nine points and nine rebounds, and Alexius Dawn had nine points and eight assists. ... Little Rock was playing in the title game for the seventh time in eight years.
Little Rock trailed 33-30 at the half. An 11-0 run with point guard Alexius Dawn, who had eight assists, getting all nine of her points, put Little Rock up 47-37 midway through the third quarter. Then Troy scored the last seven of the quarter, four from Fils-Aime', to trail 49-47 going into the fourth quarter.
Troy finds out its NCAA destination and opponent on Monday night.
Little Rock is hoping for a WNIT bid.