Buzzer-beater sends Queens to SAC Tournament with 58-56 win over Tusculum

Buzzer-beater sends Queens to SAC Tournament with 58-56 win over Tusculum

CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- Maggie Stewart made a layup as time expired as Queens University of Charlotte clinched a spot in next week's South Atlantic Conference Women's Basketball Championship tournament with a 58-56 victory over Tusculum College Saturday afternoon at Curry Arena.

The Royals (5-22, 5-17) won a four-way tiebreaker with Tusculum, Mars Hill and Coker by finishing with the best record in head-to-head competition among the four teams with a 4-2 record. Queens snapped an 11-game losing streak with the last-second win over the Pioneers (6-20, 5-17 SAC), who needed one win in their final two games to lock up the final spot in the conference tournament, but lost both games by a total of three points.

Tusculum trailed 56-53 with 12 seconds to go, but a three-pointer by Callie Patterson with six seconds left tied the game and set up the final possession for Queens. Sarah Henson connected with Stewart under the basket, who put home the winning shot as time ran out to send the Royals to the SAC Championship tournament for the first time in their four seasons in the conference.

Stewart finished with 13 points and seven rebounds for the Royals while Henson and Mendy McNeese shared the team high with 14 points. Queens shot an even 50 percent (20-for-40) from the field but turned the ball over 22 times, which Tusculum converted into 19 points.

Sydney Wilson led the Pioneers with 15 points, Kasey Johnson added 14 and Patterson and Maelyn Head had 10 points apiece for Tusculum, which finished 10-for-10 at the foul line. It was the third time in program history and first since Jan. 28, 2004 at Mars Hill (29-for-29) that Tusculum made 10 or more foul shots in a game without a miss.

Queens scored the first four points of the game and held a 6-2 lead midway through first quarter, but a three-pointer from Head and a basket by Patterson gave Tusculum its first lead at 7-6 with 4:18 left in the period. A three-pointer by Patterson sparked a 6-0 Pioneer run which gave Tusculum a 14-8 lead with 2:43 remaining in the quarter.

Tusculum, which led 14-12 at the end of the opening quarter, never trailed in the second quarter. The Pioneers broke an 18-18 tie on a four-point play by Wilson with 4:43 left in the half, and went to the locker room with a 26-23 advantage. Head led the Pioneers with seven points and five rebounds in the first half, while Henson paced the Royals with seven points as well.

Queens trailed by as many as five points early in the third quarter before taking its first lead since the first quarter on a jumper by Henson with 3:28 to go in the period. Tusculum regained the lead on a Monica Roberts three-pointer on its next possession, but a three-pointer by McKell Oliverio with 1:27 left in the quarter gave the Royals a 37-35 lead that it carried into the final period.

The Royals took their largest lead of the game at 41-35 on two free throws by McNeese with 8:30 to play, but a three-pointer by Wilson cut the margin in half with 8:18 to go. McNeese added another basket for a five-point Queens lead at 43-38 with 7:51 left, but baskets from Johnson and Wilson brought Tusculum within 43-42 with 6:04 remaining.

The Pioneers tied the game at 47-47 on three foul shots by Head with 4:41 left, and an exchange of baskets from Victoria Robinson and Johnson kept the game deadlocked at 49-49 with 4:07 to go. McNeese then scored five straight points on a three-pointer and a layup to give Queens a 54-49 lead with 2:47 left, but Patterson made a layup with 1:21 to go and Johnson canned a jumper with 39 seconds left to pull the Pioneers within 54-53.

Two free throws by Oliverio with 12 seconds left gave Queens a 56-53 lead and forced Tusculum to find a three-pointer for the tie, which Patterson drained to deadlock the score at 56-56 just prior to Stewart's game-winner for the Royals.

Head went 7-for-7 from the foul line to finish her Pioneer career with a career 79.6 percent mark at the free-throw stripe (257-for-323), which ranks seventh on the Tusculum career list. Head also finished tied for 10th in program history with 89 career three-pointers and scored 860 points in 89 games in a Tusculum uniform.

Off the bench, Tia Dailey had two points and a team-high four assists in 19 minutes for the Pioneers, who had just 11 turnovers in the game. Queens outrebounded Tusculum 34-23 and had a 26-16 advantage in points in the paint.

Queens will play at top-seeded Lincoln Memorial in the SAC Championship quarterfinal round on Wednesday at 6 p.m. The four quarterfinal winners will advance to the semifinals which will be played Saturday in Greenville, South Carolina, with the championship game scheduled for Sunday.