Fort Myers, FL — It was hard to find an empty seat in Alico Arena Saturday night as Florida Gulf Coast University fans gathered, eager to watch the women’s basketball team go head-to-head against Stetson University. The ASUN Championship title was on the line, and both teams battled it out … down to the last minute and a half of overtime.
The loss came as a shock to the Eagles (23-8), who were confident going into Saturday night’s game against the Hatters (23-5), because not only did they have home-court advantage, they were also entering the weekend riding a 75-game conference win streak at Alico Arena, and held a 20-3 advantage all-time over Stetson.
“I thought we had a team that could win the championship this year, but obviously we didn’t,” said FGCU coach Karl Smesko
The teams were neck and neck in the first quarter, tying it up five times in the first six minutes. Freshman guard Tytionia Adderly crashed the boards early with three rebounds, and four points. Senior guard Jordin Alexander also contributed five of the teams 16 points. However, the Hatters came out a bit stronger, finishing off the first quarter with 19 points.
DeAsia Beal tallied five points to the scoreboard, while senior Breana Bey, who leads the ASUN in shooting percentage (58.2% from the field), and Austria native Sarah Sagerer each tacked on four points.
FGCU took its first lead, 25-24, at 5:50 into the second quarter, but it didn’t last long. Stetson’s junior guard Brittney Chambers struck back with a three-pointer, putting the Hatters back on top. The loud cheers from the crowd were unable to help the Eagles, who ended the second quarter trailing 33-28, despite 11-points from Missouri native Erica Nelson. Beal and Chambers each scored seven apiece for Stetson.
The Eagles were hoping to turn it around in the second half, and they did just that.
“It took us a quarter and a half to get used to what they [Stetson] were doing and their playing style,” Coach Smesko said.
Alexander was on fire, adding six points to the board, while Nelson added four. FGCU was able to end the third quarter at 43-42, within one point of their opponent.
Adderly started out the fourth quarter with a layup, helping the Eagles pull ahead, 44-43. From then on, it was anyone’s game. The Eagles ran onto the court embracing and congratulating Alexander after she nailed a jump shot with 34 seconds left, allowing FGCU to pull ahead 54-53. But then it was Chambers’ foul shot that tied the game up 54-54 sending the game into overtime.
Both teams were tied up in overtime until 1:26 left on the clock to decide the title. Foul shots by Stetson’s players Chambers, McKenna Beach and Brianti Saunders allowed the Hatters to clinch the game, 67-64.
“I’m not sad because, I feel like we still played good,” Adderly said of her team’s performance. “We have to focus and practice -- that’s the main concern.” The Florida-native earned a career-high 18 rebounds, and said that she thinks rebounding will be “the key to the team’s success.”
For Nelson, the hardest part of the game was seeing her teammate Alexander’s facial expression after the final buzzer.
“I wanted to win this for her on her senior night. She works so hard every game. I wanted to do it for her,” she said while choking back tears.
Despite not winning the game, the Eagles are still staying positive. “This is definitely a tough one, but we’ll regroup, we’ll come back,” Coach Smesko said.
Adderly nodded in agreement. “We can always come back in the next game. This is just a learning experience. It’s a lesson for us. We’ve gotta get our head back in it.”
“We both fought. No matter how it turned out it was a great game. It was fun to watch,” said Stetson coach Lynn Bria. She admitted that Bey played great defensively, but believes it was Sagerer’s and Chamber’s rebounds that allowed them to win the game. “We come here, we play, whether we win or lose it’s about those three games in March,” Coach Bria said.
Stetson University now claims the regular-season crown, and home court advantage as the No. 1 seed next week in the ASun conference tournament, while FGCU has fallen to the No. 2 seed. The Hatters are headed back to Deland to compete in the quarterfinals on March 3. They will go head-to-head against the winner of Upstate v. UNF.