Just when the East Tennessee State women’s basketball team appeared ready to give one away, Tarita Gordon came through.
Gordon hit two of her biggest shots of the season, one of them a little lucky, in the final 1:11, as the Lady Bucs surprised Stetson 74-72 in an Atlantic Sun Conference game at the Minidome. The Lady Bucs (8-20, 7-10 A-Sun) trailed 43-34 at halftime but roared back in the second half, eventually taking a 69-58 lead. But the Hatters (21-8, 12-5) battled back with 12 points in a row to assume a 70-69 advantage.
“I was kind of getting a little nervous,” said ETSU’s Natalie Pickwell, who had 14 points, going 4 of 8 on 3-point tries. “I actually had faith in my team. This time I had a feeling we were gonna pull it out and I’m happy we did. This definitely boosts our confidence.”
Gordon swished a fall-away jumper from the left wing to put the Lady Bucs up 71-70 with 1:11 left. Then, she connected again on an unlikely attempt. After dribbling much of the shot clock away, she let fly a 25-footer that looked long. The ball banged of the backboard and squarely through the basket for a 74-70 lead.
“It went in, that’s all I can say,” Gordon said. “I just had to make something out of it and it went in.”
After Stetson’s Victoria McGowan scored to make it 74-72, Gordon and Cara Bowling each missed the front end of a one-and-one, giving the Hatters one final chance. McGowan missed a potential winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Afterward, ETSU coach Karen Kemp said she was glad to see a little luck go her team’s way on Gordon’s bank shot.
“The bank was still open,” Kemp said. “I’m glad it wasn’t closed yet. That was big. That really was the dagger for them. It made the difference. We’ll take luck any time we can get luck on our side.”
Gordon finished with 20 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Destiny Mitchell added 10 points for the Lady Bucs.
McGowan finished with 2 1points for Stetson, which could have clinched the No. 2 seed in the A-Sun tournament with a victory.
“I was really proud of the way our young ladies came out in the second half and competed,” Kemp said. “I was disappointed the first 20 minutes. They says it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
ETSU closes the regular season Saturday with a home game against Florida Gulf Coast, which has clinched the top seed in the tournament.