MACON, Ga. – For the second time in as many years, the Belmont women's basketball team (12-18, 11-7 A-Sun) was denied advancing at the Atlantic Sun Tournament on a seemingly impossible shot in the final seconds of regulation. The third seeded Bruins were upset by No. 6 Jacksonville (11-19, 8-10 A-Sun), 62-58, in a quarterfinal matchup on Thursday night.
The Bruins opened the first stanza on a tear after winning the tip. Redshirt junior Katie Brooks (Maryville, Tenn.) knocked down a jumper from the left elbow to put BU on the board barely 15 seconds in. JU answered back but Belmont began streaking. First Team All-Atlantic Sun honoree senior Haley Nelson (Scottsboro, Ala.) knocked down a pair at the charity stripe and followed with a jumper in the paint to put BU on top, 8-2. By the 15 minute mark, Belmont was leading 13-5, after a jumper by freshman Katie Carroll (Lilburn, Ga.) and the first of three consecutive triples by sophomore Molly Ernst (Louisville, Ky.).
The Dolphins began making up the scoring gap from the charity stripe, led by A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year Crystal Bell and soon were as close as two points, 13-11, with 13:33 on the clock. However, Belmont stormed back and used shots by sophomore Julianne Downs (Franklin, Tenn.), Brooks and Nelson to blow the lead up to double digits, 23-13, four and a half minutes later. JU worked to close the gap to five, 27-22, but freshman Amara Mayers (Harvest, Ala.) drilled her lone three pointer of the night to keep the Bruins' lead comfortable. Free throws by senior Cacy Burtnett (Cleveland, Tenn.) rebuilt the 10-point advantage, 34-24, with 90 seconds left before the teams headed for the locker rooms. JU answered with a three but Brooks two at the stripe to send Belmont to into the break with a nine point, 36-27, lead.
Jacksonville opened the second half with a triple to cut Belmont's lead to six, 36-30. It would be nearly three and a half minutes before the Bruins would get on the board behind a pair at the stripe by Carroll. BU continued to struggle from the hardwood, hitting only one of 10 attempts in the first five minutes. JU began surging behind long distance shots and by the 14:43 mark had moved to within three, 41-38.
Jacksonville hustled to knot the game twice over the next two and a half minutes but the Bruins pushed back and dug their heels in defensively. A layup by freshman Adrienne Tarrence (Bowling Green, Ky.) got the ball rolling for BU and soon the team was up by six, 53-47, after a triple by junior Alyssa Visbeen (Franklin, Tenn.). The Dolphins used a falling jumper by Bell cut Belmont's lead to one, 54-53, with 4:12 remaining in regulation to begin surging once again.
The Bruins regained the lead, 56-53, behind two Nelson free throws less than a minute later and began using the clock to their advantage hoping to hold on for the win. However, JU took its first lead of the night, 57-56, after 3-of-4 shots at the free throw line. Jessica George banked in an impossible falling down three pointer to put JU ahead by four, 60-56, with 29 seconds left in regulation. Jade Cargill netted an insurance jumper with eight ticks remaining after two BU attempts rimmed out of the net. Tarrence found the bottom of the basket with less than one second left on the clock for the final points of the night as the Dolphins held on for the 62-58 win.
Jacksonville shot 36.8 percent from the floor, 46.7 percent from three-point range and 92.9 percent from the free-throw line. The Dolphins held the advantage in rebounds, 43-33, and blocks, 6-5.
JU was led in scoring by Abril Peeples, who scored a game-high 22 points. Cargill picked up a double-double with 11 points and 16 rebounds and Bell added 10 points.
Belmont shot 34 percent from the hardwood, 42.9 percent from behind the three-point arc and 66.7 percent from the charity stripe. The Bruins held the advantage in assists, 10-8 and the teams were tied in steals with six apiece.
Nelson notched her 16th and final double-double with 14 points and 16 rebounds. Ernst also contributed 14 points, including going 4-for-8 from behind the three-point arc. Brooks finished with a game-high six assists.
Belmont concludes the 2011-12 season with a 12-18 overall record and 11-7 A-Sun mark.