Comeback Suns: Arkansas Tech Advances

Nationally top-ranked Arkansas Tech overcame a nine-point halftime deficit and reached the women’s NCAA Division II Tournament South Region championship game for a second consecutive year by defeating the Florida Tech Panthers 83-74 at Tucker Coliseum in Russellville on Saturday night.

The defending NCAA Division II South Region champion Golden Suns (29-2) will face Delta State in the region title game at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 14, at Tucker Coliseum.

Florida Tech (24-9) led Saturday’s regional semifinal 37-28 at halftime and 45-39 with 15:48 left in the game folllowing a 3-pointer by Ashton McClairen.

Jessica Weatheford answered with a three-point play for Arkansas Tech that sparked a 20-5 Golden Suns’ run.

Jenny Vining hit four 3-pointers during the spurt, including back-to-back treys to give the Suns a 59-50 advantage at the 11:15 mark.

Florida Tech battled back to a 67-67 tie with 5:00 left, but that was all the Panthers had.

Consecutive three-point plays by Vining and Laura Beth Anderson were the beginning of a 16-3 Arkansas Tech run over a span of 3:20 that clinched the Golden Suns’ 35th consecutive home win.

The streak is now tied for the second-longest home winning streak in Arkansas Tech women’s basketball history.

Vining made six 3-pointers for a second consecutive night and scored a season-high 29 points.

Arkansas Tech’s Natalia Santos scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for her 21st career double-double.

Anderson added 14 points, five rebounds, six assists and three steals for the Golden Suns, while Jessica Weatherford had 13 points, seven rebounds and three steals.

McClairen paced Florida Tech with 20 points. She was 6-of-14 from beyond the 3-point arc.

Three-time all-region guard Lynisha Nelson scored 17 points and dished out 12 assists for the Panthers. Tamara Dowdell netted 13 points and Briauna Hagins collected 20 rebounds for Florida Tech.