With a dwindling lead and a resilient Rollins team closing in the second half, Nova Southeastern faced a familiar situation against a familiar foe.
But the top-seeded Sharks withstood the strong comeback effort by the fifth-seeded Tars, pulling away late with a 73-57 win in the semifinals of the NCAA Division II South Region Tournament at Nova Southeastern’s Don Taft University Center on Saturday night.
“We knew it was going to be a battle for 40 minutes,” Nova coach LeAnn Freeland said. “I was really happy with our players down the stretch to show the resolve that they did.”
Guard Meixandra Porter led the way for the Sharks, putting up 20 points, and guards Taylor Buie and Amanda Burakoski added 15 and 14 points, respectively.
In the final, the Sharks will take on Delta State on Monday at 7 p.m. The winner will move on to the Elite Eight in San Antonio.
Midway through the first half and ahead by two, the Sharks went on a 20-0 run to take a 33-11 lead with five minutes left.
The Tars struggled in finding an answer to the Sharks swarming defense, turning over the ball 15 times in the first half, which led to nearly half of Nova’s point total at the end of the opening 20 minutes of play.
Despite falling behind by as many as 23 points, guards Sarah Taylor and Ashley Jones brought the Tars back to life with a late run, putting a sizable dent into what was once a comfortable Nova lead and forcing the Sharks to settle for a 40-29 lead at halftime.
“It was a matter determination, chipping away and slowly getting everyone on the same page,” Taylor said of the turnaround.
Picking up right where they left off, Rollins continued its sharp shooting and took advantage of sloppy play by Nova to narrow the Nova lead to five points with eight minutes to go in the contest.
But that would be as close as the Tars would get as their shot accuracy waned and back-to-back three-pointers from Burakoski and Porter all but sealed Rollins’ fate, putting the Sharks ahead by 15 with two and half minutes to go.