NASSAU, Bahamas - After trailing most of the game on Saturday, the East Carolina women's basketball team dug down and rallied for a 68-63 win over Florida Atlantic to capture the championship of the 2008 Bahamas Sunshine Shootout inside the Kendal Isaacs National Gymnasium. The Lady Pirates improve to 8-3 on the year and have won four-straight while the Owls fall to 3-7 overall. Freshman Jean Best and senior Jasmine Young were named to the All-Tournament Team while Young was selected as the tournament MVP.
Florida Atlantic took control from the start, scoring the first ten points of the contest until ECU put together a 20-9 run to take its first lead of the game with 7:38 remaining in the half. The teams played even basketball over the the next three minutes, as the contest balanced at 25-25. A three-pointer by Candace Lambert proved the difference for the Owls going into the half, as Florida Atlantic held a slim 28-27 advantage at the break.
Freshman Jean Best led the Lady Pirates with nine points and four rebounds in the stanza while East Carolina held a 38.5-31.4 lead from the field. However, the Owls were more efficient on the glass, producing a 23-17 advantage.
After the game was tied 33-33 with just under 17 minutes left in the game, Florida Atlantic used an 11-4 run over the next six minutes to establish a seven-point advantage. However, Crystal Wilson grabbed an offensive rebound and put the ball back in to slice the deficit to just two at the 5:55 mark. A layup by Lambert with 4:18 remaining gave her team a four-point cushion, 56-52, but sophomore Allison Spivey and Best dropped four straight after a Wilson free throw to put the Lady Pirates back ahead 57-56. Best was fouled on her shot and converted a three-point play to make the score 58-56 in ECU's favor with 2:21 left.
Then, with the Lady Pirates leading 60-58 with 40 seconds remaining, senior LaCoya Terry hit a layup and was fouled, sending her to the line. She calmly swished the free throw, making the score 63-58. The Owls attempted to rally, cutting their deficit to 67-63, but East Carolina held them off for the win.
Best netted a career-high 19 points on the evening and fell just shy of a double-double with a career-best nine rebounds. Additionally, Young turned in a fine effort, picking up a season-high 17 points with seven assists. The Lady Pirates held a decided advantage from the field, firing at a 44.1 percent clip while Florida Atlantic produced a 36.4 percent effort. The teams also played to a deadlock on the boards, each picking up 39 rebounds.
ECU will return to action after Christmas, travelling to Miami, Fla. for the FIU Sun and Fun Classic on the campus of Florida International University. The Lady Pirates face Marist in the first contest of the event on Monday, December 29 at 7 p.m. They will then face either Georgia Southern or Florida International on Tuesday to close out the event.
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