Xavier tops Temple in women's hoops

March 11, 2008 11:45:51 AM PDT
Xavier relied on its experience last season. This time, the exuberance of a youthful team worked just as well. After losing five seniors and four starters from last year's Atlantic 10 tournament championship team, the Musketeers repeated the feat with a roster featuring no seniors.

Junior Jerri Taylor scored 14 points, including two clutch free throws in the final seconds, to help Xavier rally past top-seeded Temple 47-42 on Monday to capture its second consecutive Atlantic 10 tournament championship and another NCAA tournament berth.

Sophomore Amber Harris had 12 points and five blocked shots and freshman Ta'Shia Phillips had 10 points and 13 rebounds for the Musketeers (24-8), who defeated Saint Joseph's in last year's final. Phillips was named the tournament's most outstanding player.

Xavier also has won tournament championships in 2000 and '01.

"I really liked our team early," Xavier coach Kevin McGuff said. "I liked our talent, but I was a little nervous if we could improve throughout the year."

The Musketeers sure did, winning seven of their final eight games to clinch the NCAA bid.

"It's really exciting," said Phillips, the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year. "We're really focused."

Ashley Morris scored 12 points for Temple, Shanea Cotton had 10 and Lady Comfort added 11 rebounds, elevating her into sixth place on the school's all-time rebounding list with 766, passing Kamesha Hairston.

It was the seventh championship game for the Owls and the first time they have lost in coach Dawn Staley's eight seasons. Temple was 4-2 in title games overall, and 4-0 under Staley heading into this game.

The Owls won tournament titles in 2000, '04, '05 and '06 and are still likely to earn an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament.

"We will play in the postseason," Staley said, referring to the NCAA tournament.

Temple went ahead 39-36 on a basket by Morris with 7:07 remaining before Xavier began its comeback.

Ta'Shia Phillips had two baskets, Harris hit two free throws and April Phillips connected on two free throws as the Musketeers used on an 8-0 run to take a 44-39 lead with 3:45 remaining.

Though Temple missed five straight shots, it pulled to 44-42 on a layup by Cotton with 33 seconds left. But Harris converted 1-of-2 free throws and Taylor hit two with 8.2 seconds remaining to seal the tournament championship.

"Offensively, we couldn't get it going," Staley said.

Xavier shot 34 percent (15-of-44), but the Owls were only 16-of-63 (25 percent) and 3-of-18 from 3-point territory. Morris missed 20 of her 24 field goals and committed eight of Temple's 15 turnovers.

"I know she feels bad, but she got us here and she's the reason we're here," Staley said.

Both teams struggled from the field in the first half as Temple shot 9-for-31 (29 percent) while Xavier connected on 7-of-24 attempts (29 percent).

Harris missed her first seven shots and had only four points on 1-of-8 shooting as the Temple student section mocked her.

"I was telling them to keep doing it," Harris said. "I like it when crowds do it. It really helps me play better."


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