By James Vallone
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Lady Hawks received double digit scoring from a freshman, and double digit rebounds from a senior, as the Lady Hawks rallied in the final minutes to pull away from the Southeastern University Fire, 53-49, in the semi-finals of the NCCAA South Region Tournament.
The Lady Hawks entered the post-season with the top seed in the South Region and earned the first round bye, whereas the Fire already had to defeat Pensacola Christian on Monday night.
The Lady Hawks (16-11) opened up a lead with back-to-back 3-pointers from Maggie Peeples, establishing the 20-14 lead with 5:21 to play. Matthews connected on a jumper with less than a minute left in the half giving Shorter the 26-24 lead at the intermission.
Nadia Givens tied the game right after the second half commenced, before 3:44 of scoreless basketball – Givens ended that streak with a 3-pointer with 16:03 to play. Givens scored 11 of her game-high 18 points in the second half, but was held scoreless over the final 6:38 as the Lady Hawks were able to expand a two-point lead to as much as much as six points.
Rice scored eight points in the second half, all in the final 5:09, including a pair of shots from behind the arc. Rice tallied a career-high 13 points off of the bench – her second straight game in double digit scoring.
Shelby Farrer scored eight points, along with fellow senior Matthews, while grabbing a game-high 14 rebounds.
Lindsey Crawford got her third consecutive start and added eight rebounds, the Lady Hawks edged the Fire on the boards with a 43-41 advantage.
Boykin scored seven points, including a pair of 3-pointers, while dishing out four assists and picking up three steals.
The Fire got 13 points from Abbi Wiki off the bench to be the only other player to reach double digits in points.
Both teams shot 31 percent from the floor, with Shorter holding the slight edge from behind the arc – 28 percent to 25 percent.
The Lady Hawks capitalized on points in the paint, where they scored 24 points in the game, while claiming a 31-14 advantage in scoring from the bench.
The finals will be held tomorrow at 6 pm, where the Lady Hawks will be facing Emmanuel College – the defending South Region champions. The Lions are the No. 2 seed, and have defeated Truett-McConnell and Southern Wesleyan so far.