Regional Champions! Harding Women's Basketball Advances to Elite Eight

Regional Champions! Harding Women's Basketball Advances to Elite Eight

(SEARCY, AR)---There was a little magic in the Rhodes-Reaves Field House on Monday. Left for dead after trailing by 18 points early in the third quarter, No. 2 seed Harding (30-3) stormed back to stun top seed Emporia State (29-5) 58-56 in the championship game of the NCAA Division II Central Region women's basketball tournament.

Sydnie Jones layup with 0:41 left gave Harding their first lead since early in the first quarter at 57-56. An Emporia State turnover on the ensuing possession and foul sent Riley Rose to the foul where she made of one of two for the final margin. The Hornets' final chance, a 3-point try by Addie Lackey bounced off the rim at the final buzzer.

A'ndrea Haney and Jones led Harding with 16 points each. Jones chipped in with a team-high 10 rebounds. Tournament MVP Caroline Hogue had 13 points and eight rebounds for the Lady Bisons.

Emporia State was led by the effort of Kathryn Flott, who notched 18 points and 19 rebounds. Lackey scored 13 and Jacee Kramer finished with 12.

The story of the opening half was Emporia State's total control of the backboards. The Hornets scored 14 second-chance points and owned a 24-14 rebounding edge. Factored with ESU's plus-6 margin in turnovers, the Hornets took 41 first-half field-goal tries to Harding's 22.

The Hornets led 14-11 at the first quarter break, but extended the lead to 28-13 midway through the second quarter after a 14-2 run keyed by a pair of Lackey and Flott buckets. The lead grew to as many as 17 before Emporia State settled for a 38-24 lead at the break.

ESU built a 42-24 lead a minute into the second half, before Harding ended the quarter with an 18-6 burst to pull to within 48-42 after three periods.

Emporia State ended 24 of 69 (35 percent) from the floor, while Harding was 24 of 51 (47 percent). ESU led 46-30 on the glass. Turnovers were tied at 11 each.

The all-tournament team consisted of Hogue, Haney, Jones, Flott, and Emporia State's Kelly Moten.

Harding advances to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight for the first time in school history. Times and opponents for the Columbus, Ohio, event will be announced later.

Harding has won 30 games for the first time in program history ... Harding has won 16 straight and 24 of its last 25 ... Harding finished 15-0 at home and tied a school record with its 17th straight home victory ... Emporia State had won nine straight prior to Monday.