Women’s Basketball: Worth the Price of Admission

Coach Tom Jessee couldn’t have been more right.

“I’ve been in a lot of basketball games in 22 years,” said Jesse. “That may be one of the most exciting ones.”

The Spartans captured the SSC Tournament championship for the second straight year. Along with the trophy, Tampa also earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament.

“I hope the fans got their money’s worth,” said Rollins coach Glenn Wilkes Jr. Yes, Mr Wilkes, the fans got more than their money’s worth in this one.

Shay Mackey drilled a three-pointer with 9.2 seconds left in the game and the Spartans down three. The shot sent the bench into the air and the game into overtime.

The six-point lead in overtime never felt secure, and Rollins closed the gap, tying the score at 66-66 with 15 seconds remaining.

Shay Mackey must have ice in her veins, because the pressure of having the whole season on her shoulders didn’t faze her. Mackey took the ball with nine seconds left in overtime and the score tied.

“When I went up I saw the bank shot open, I just threw it up,” said Mackey. “It went down for me.”

The shot fell with 0.2 seconds left on the clock. Rollins tossed the ball in and had no time for a long shot. The final score read 68-66 Tampa.

Tampa took a long road to a repeat championship. Rollins left Tampa in December with a 55-43 victory over the Spartans.

As the season wore on, it seemed the Spartans would never get their rhythm. Instead, Tampa defeated Lynn on Jan. 20 and didn’t lose for nearly a month until they fell at Lynn on Feb. 17.

Earning the third seed in the tournament, Tampa easily beat Nova Southeastern in the first game of the postseason.

Florida Tech, the second seed, came into the penultimate match of the tournament ranked 18th in the nation. The Panthers were no match for Shay Mackey and Sheena Walton as the Spartans rolled, 66-58.

The tournament final, a rematch of the same game last year, saw the Spartans open up a 12-point lead early in the game. The Tars battled back and took a late lead, but were no match for Shay Mackey.

While last year’s finale was all-Tampa the whole game, this year’s game was a scrappy fight. After Mackey coolly drilled her game-tying three-pointer, Jennifer Dyer fouled Mackey twice in the overtime period. The first was under the Tars basket and was a hard foul to the face.

Mackey kept her composure and was fouled by Dyer on the next possession under the UT basket.

Up by two, Mackey missed the front end of the one-and-one.

The Tars were whistled for a lane violation.

“I’m glad it was a violation,” said Mackey. “I had missed the first and just wanted to make the most of it.”

Mackey took the second chance to nail both free throws. Need any more proof she has ice water in the veins?

The Tars fought back and tied the score at 66. No problem for Tampa, as Mackey simply laid the ball off the backboard with under a second to play to give the Spartans their final 68-66 lead.

“Good basketball games always have two great teams,” said coach Jessee. “Unfortunately, one has to lose.”

Overtime games are often a result of two fairly evenly matched teams facing off. Rollins was a huge favorite last year. Tampa proved the polls wrong last year and again this year.

This year, the Spartans will likely travel to Ft. Lauderdale to play at host Florida Gulf Coast. FGCU finished the year undefeated.

“We welcome the opportunity,” said Jessee. “But we’re going to go enjoy spring break.”

The team has earned it. A rough start to the regular season led to pure redemption at the end. It all adds up to the University of Tampa earning its second consecutive Sunshine State Conference women’s basketball championship trophy.

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