USC Women Fall In WNIT Title Match
April 2, 2011
TOLEDO, OHIO - The USC women's basketball team came up against a powerful crowd and a determined Toledo team in the 2011 WNIT Championship game. With a sellout crowd behind them, the host Rockets got out ahead of the Trojans in the second half and went on to claim the title with a 76-68 win over USC on Saturday at Savage Arena. Playing in their first postseason tournament championship game since the NCAA final in 1986, the Women of Troy finish the season with a 24-13 overall record
On the road for the fifth straight game in the tournament, USC found itself in a familiar spot at halftime, trailing its opponent at the break as had occurred in three other WNIT games. But Toledo had a loud crowd of 7,301 behind it as the Rockets were able to boost themselves ahead and hold off the Trojans' comeback attempts in the final minute. More than half of Toledo's offense was provided by Naama Shafir, who finished with 40 points in the game, including 28 second-half points. Meanwhile, USC's scoring was spread out with five different players hitting double digits. Briana Gilbreath, Jacki Gemelos and Cassie Harberts each had 14, with Ashley Corral hitting 12 on the way to tying the WNIT record of 22 threes made in the tournament, and Kari LaPlante finished with 10 points in the senior's final game as a Trojan.
The first half was high energy and see sawed through six lead changes. USC got ahead by seven thanks to a pair of threes from Briana Gilbreath, but the Rockets would make a 9-0 run later to move back ahead. The half stayed tight the rest of the way with whistles blowing against the Trojans and sending Toledo to the line. USC broke out of a 30-30 tie with a three-point play converted by Cassie Harberts to make it 30-27 USC with just under five minutes to go. USC would get just one field goal to fall the rest of the way as the Rockets spent more time at the line and worked ahead to a 35-32 halftime lead.
Toledo's Naama Shafir accounted for 17 of the Rockets' first 19 points of the second half as the Trojans pushed to get things under their control with a push ahead for a 44-42 lead on an Ashley Corral 3-pointer with 13:00 on the clock. But a 9-0 Toledo run purely at the hands of Shafir took the Rockets ahead 54-47 with 9 minutes remaining in regulation. USC's largest deficit of the game came with 3 minutes to go as the Trojans fell behind 67-53 on a three from Melissa Goodall, and USC was forced to play catchup with time draining. Some free-throw misses by the Rockets helped the Trojans to cut in, with Gemelos scoring back-to-back buckets to make it a four-point game with 37 ticks to go. Shafir would be flawless from the line the rest of the way, however, getting to 40 points on the night and keeping a Trojan comeback from taking shape as the Rockets held on for a 76-68 victory.