GREENVILLE, Ill. - The SLIAC regular season champion Greenville women's basketball team topped Spalding 72-66 in the championship game of the SLIAC tournament on Saturday and will earn an automatic berth to their second NCAA national championship tournament. Both NCAA appearances have come in the last four years.
Spalding took the lead against Greenville early as the Panthers slipped behind 13-8 at the first media timeout with 4:30 to go in the first quarter.
The Golden Eagles eventually led 16-8, but GU went on an 11-0 run to close the period and establish a 19-16 lead after one quarter.
Wesley Woodard was Greenville's first half leading scorer with 12 points.
In the third quarter, Spalding tied the score at 42-all with 4:30 remaining, and the Panthers fell behind 50-48 after three quarters.
Greenville retook the lead at 53-52 on a three-pointer by Emily Brandland and scored the next six points to increase their lead to 59-52 with 5:32 left in the fourth quarter. GU was on top 61-52 with 3:41 to play.
The Panthers saw their lead trimmed to 65-62 with 1:22 to go, but three free throws from Jantzen Michael put Greenville ahead 68-62. Spalding made the score 68-64, but Greenville held at least a four point advantage the rest of the way.
Tournament MVP Morgan St. James was the top scorer for Greenville with 19 points and was dominant on the defensive end of the floor with six blocked shots. St. James was joined on the All-Tournament team by Wesley Woodard and Megan Barrett.
Woodard ended with 16 points for Greenville, and Barrett was the Panthers top rebounder with eight.
The Panthers (23-4) will learn their NCAA destination on Monday at 1:30 p.m. when the NCAA hosts their selection show on ncaa.com.