Women’s basketball heads to Macon on a hot streak

Spinnaker

By: Zach Morgan, Contributing Writer

 

(Photo by Andrew Noble)

UNF will begin its third straight attempt at an Atlantic Sun championship March 1, after coming away with a heart-pounding thriller.

As the buzzer sounded Feb. 26, the UNF women’s basketball team celebrated a shocking victory over Jacksonville University, its cross-town rival.

With the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament looming, the Ospreys traveled to JU to take on the Dolphins in their regular season finale. While UNF clinched a spot in the tournament last week, the fourth seed was still on the line.

(Photo by Andrew Noble)

UNF struggled shooting the ball all night, finishing the game at 23.7 percent shooting from the field and 22.2 percent from behind the arc. JU took a 26-14 lead into halftime. JU continued to dominate the Ospreys, but with 9:02 left in the game, Raneisha Lamar made a layup, and the comeback was on.

With 4:31 left in the game, Jacksonville’s Jane’l Osborne made a jumper that gave JU a 44-36 advantage. After the basket by Osborne, UNF went on a game-changing run. With 1:20 left, a Jacksonville foul put UNF’s Kim Baker at the foul line. After she drained both shots, JU’s lead was just one. Forty seconds later, senior guard Brittany Kirkland was at the line for the second time. She made one of the two free throws to tie the game at 44 apiece. With an opportunity to regain the lead late, JU took the ball down the court and put up a three-pointer. The shot rimmed out, and UNF grabbed the rebound.

(Photo by Andrew Noble)

UNF called a timeout with just 1.7 seconds remaining in the game. The timeout would prove to be just enough for the Ospreys to sweep their rivals, as junior guard Jadhken Kerr made a sensational inbound pass to Larkira Jones, who quickly found the bottom of the net with the ball just before the buzzer sounded.

“Mentally, we weren’t very tough to start with, and we missed some easy shots,” head coach Mary Tappmeyer said. “It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to work.”

Regardless of what happens in the A-Sun tournament this week, this is a victory that Kirkland will not forget anytime soon.

“This game was pretty big, pretty big. We’ve got bragging rights to the city now,” Kirkland said. “I’m a firm believer that it’s not how you begin the game, it’s how you finish.”

(Photo by Andrew Noble)

UNF’s final victory was, perhaps, its most dramatic, but there were many more games played during the regular season and each played a part in getting the Ospreys to postseason play.

After losing their first five regular season games, things were clearly heading in the wrong direction. Then the Ospreys won four of their next six games, including victories over JU and Jacksonville State. Following their win over Jacksonville State, the Ospreys would hit another rough patch, winning just two of their next seven games, including four losses against A-Sun opponents.

After rebounding with two conference wins over Mercer and Kennesaw State, the Ospreys were in a great position to make a run at the postseason. However, Belmont, Lipscomb and Florida Gulf Coast University handed UNF three consecutive losses. With its back against the wall, UNF won five of its final six regular season games, including its buzzer-beater win over JU.

The Ospreys clinched the fourth seed in the A-Sun Tournament this week. UNF will take on fifth seeded KSU in the first round March 1 at noon. These two teams have met twice this season already, with UNF winning both matchups. In its first game, UNF defeated the Owls 66-57 behind the play of Kirkland and her 13 points. The Ospreys defense held KSU to 31 percent on the night, while UNF shot 47 percent.

(Photo by Andrew Noble)

The second matchup between the two teams was UNF’s final home game and senior night at the UNF Arena. Again, the Ospreys defeated the Owls, this time behind 35 combined points from Kirkland and Kerr. UNF used 13 rebounds from Jones to outrebound the Owls 42-30.

UNF has fared well against Kennesaw State to this point, and if it can win its third game against the Owls this season, it will undoubtedly be the biggest victory of the three. Coming off a tremendous close to the regular season, Tappmeyer has every reason to be confident.

“It’s huge because it’s a four game sweep. We swept the last four teams we played, and that gives us a lot of confidence going into the conference tournament,” Tappmeyer said.

The Ospreys have never won the A-Sun Conference Tournament, but they have that opportunity beginning with their game against KSU on March 1.

 

Email Zach Morgan at [email protected]
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