W. BASKETBALL

Spartans Advance to SSC Championship Game After Nail-Biting Win Over Saint Leo

Box Score

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – An SSC Championship Semifinal rematch from the 2012-13 season, The No. 17 University of Tampa (22-5) took on the Saint Leo Lions (20-9) Saturday afternoon at the Silver Spurs Arena. The Spartans triumphed 80-74 in one of the most intense games of the season.

Spartans jumped out right away on offense with a three-point basket by Juliana Cavallaro to set the tone. After trading baskets for a few sets with the Lions, Tampa managed to pull away with a six point lead early on.

At the bottom half of the first period, Saint Leo’s Chachi Guzman went on an unforeseen run from three-point range to fuel a dangerous Lions’ momentum. Guzman went 5-of-6 from downtown and 6-of-9 overall from the field. The Spartans stayed true to its defensive schemes; however, there was simply no answer for the sharp shooting No.4 tournament seed in the first half.

Tampa’s bright spot was its presence in the paint as they marked an advantage of four points. Aisha Rodney and Cavallaro ended the half with eight points apiece, as the Spartans entered the locker room down 31-34.

Tampa continued to utilize its advantage in the paint to fuel several mini runs. Both teams were even as they shot over 50 percent from the field and three-point range. Illyssa Vivo lifted her team with 15 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field and connecting on three 3-point baskets. Consistent in the first half, Rodney remained aggressive down low to notch 13 points.

The nail-biting contest came down to composure, ball control, and time management, in which Tampa managed to execute. With 25 seconds left to go in regulation, Ellen Nurmi knocked down the three-point dagger to solidify the victory.

Three Spartans scored in double figures; Rodney led the pack with her season-high 21 points, while Vivo tallied a double-double (19 points and 11 rebounds). Cavallaro added 15 points.

Tampa will head to the SSC Championship game set for Sunday at 3:30 p.m. The team will take on the winner of the SSC semifinal match between No. 16 Rollins and No. 10 Nova Southeastern. The Spartans swept the regular season series against Rollins, while splitting the series 1-1 versus Rollins.

UT last appeared in the SSC Tournament Final in 2009, in which they defeated Rollins 55-29.

For live 2014 Sunshine State Conference Tournament updates visit www.sunshinestateconference.com.

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