Jasmine McDonald and Tamara Nesmith each hit six free throws and scored eight points apiece in overtime as No. 5 seed Mount Olive stunned top-seeded and nationally eighth-ranked Limestone 79-66 in the semifinal round of the 2013 Conference Carolinas Women's Basketball Tournament Friday at Gaffney, S.C. The win moves the Trojans into the championship game for the fourth time in the last six years.
The Trojans recorded their first conference tournament semifinal road win in five years and set a school women's basketball program record for highest nationally ranked team beaten.
Mount Olive will travel to Misenheimer, N.C., for Sunday afternoon's title game to take on No. 3 seed Pfeiffer, which defeated second-seeded Barton 78-55 Friday.
Mount Olive (17-11) saw leads of eight or more disappear in each half, but scored the first seven points in overtime and led the rest of the way. After baskets by Nesmith and McDonald, Kirksten Mitchell buried a three-pointer to give the Trojans a 64-57 lead with 2:33 remaining.
Limestone (25-3), which had its 19-game winning streak snapped, was held scoreless in the overtime period until Tia Williams hit 1-of-2 free throws with 2:19 left. Nesmith hit a pair of free throws with 1:49 remaining to give Mount Olive a double-digit lead at 68-58.
After Williams hit two more free throws for Limestone, McDonald answered with 2-of-2 free throws, then went 1-for-2 from the line when she was fouled after the Trojans made a defensive stop. Alicia Brookens brought the margin back down to single digits at 71-62 with 1:12 remaining with the Saints' first field goal in overtime.
Nesmith and McDonald then combined to hit 4-of-6 free throws to give the Trojans a 75-64 lead with 48 seconds remaining. Danielle Dixon answered with a basket for Limestone, but that would be the Saints' final points. Limestone missed its final three field goal attempts and Mount Olive continued to seal the win from the free throw line.
Mount Olive had lost both regular season meetings by double digits to Limestone, but raced off to a 12-4 lead in the first half. The Saints rallied to take the lead before the two teams went into the locker room tied 29-29 at halftime.
The Trojans jumped out to a quick start in the second half as Mitchell and McDonald hit 4-of-4 free throws to cap a 10-0 run and take its biggest lead of regulation at 41-31 with 14:34 left in regulation. Limestone came back with a 13-2 run of its own as Stephanie Hayes' three-pointer put the Saints back on top with 8:34 remaining.
After Mount Olive tied the game 51-51 on a pair of free throws by Joneiqua Gary, Limestone used back-to-back three-pointers by Williams to break the tie and take a 57-51 lead with 3:40 left. But the Saints would not score again in regulation.
Mitchell scored Mount Olive's next four points on a layup and a pair of free throws to pull the Trojans within 57-55 with 2:36 left. The Trojans missed on two opportunities to tie the game before Nesmith made a steal and hit a layup with 53 seconds left to even the score at 57-57.
Alyssa Luebs blocked a Limestone shot with 30 seconds left and neither team was able to score the game-winner in regulation, sending the game into overtime.
The overtime game was Mount Olive's first of the season. The loss was Limestone's second in overtime this year.
Nesmith led all players with 26 points and pulled down 12 rebounds for her 11th double-double of the season. McDonald, who scored only nine points in the first 40 minutes, posted her fifth double-double with 17 points and 15 rebounds. Mitchell added 15 points and a career-high eight assists, while Joneiqua Gary finished with 11 points. Luebs pulled down 11 boards for Mount Olive, which outrebounded Limestone 56-41.
Williams led Limestone with 22 points, while Hayes added 15 points for the Saints. Dixon recorded a double-double with 12 points and a game-high 19 rebounds.
Mount Olive's last conference tournament semifinal win on the road was during the 2008 tournament when the Trojans rallied from 17 points down to defeat Barton 74-71. Mount Olive went on to defeat then-nationally 12th-ranked Anderson in the title game for its first-ever conference championship. The Trojans also defeated top-seeded and 12th-ranked Indiana (Pa.) 62-56 in the first round of the 2008 NCAA II East Regional.
Just as it had with first-round opponent Coker and semifinal-round opponent Limestone, Mount Olive lost twice to Pfeiffer during the regular season. The Trojans fell 62-61 at Pfeiffer in January and 62-58 at Kornegay Arena in their home finale February 26.
Tip-off is 2 p.m. The winner earns an automatic bid to the Southeast Regional of the 2013 NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Championship.