Senior Sasha Sims scored a game-high 22 points including a tie-breaking three-pointer with 4:43 to play as Stetson defeated visiting Charlotte 83-81 Tuesday night at the Edmunds Center.
In a game chock-full of momentum swings and lead changes, the Hatters (6-4) hit 10 of their 12 free throws down the stretch to preserve the victory and remain undefeated at home this season (3-0).
"It is a great win for us," Stetson head coach Lynn Bria said. "I felt like we earned the win. I don't think we played pretty, but I do think we played hard and we made the plays down the stretch when we needed to."
Five Hatters scored in double figures, including Myeisha Hall who tallied 12 points in her Stetson debut. She hit a pair of threes late in the first half to help Stetson take a 42-36 lead into the intermission.
The 49ers responded quickly in the second half, pulling even at 45 on a jumper in the paint by Alexis Alexander. Cherisse Burris answered with an offensive rebound and put-back to allow Stetson to regain the lead. Burris finished with a double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds, which tied a career-high.
"I thought (Cherisse) Burris had a great 40-minute game and played a high level the entire time," Bria said. "It was one of the best games I have seen 'CeeCee' play. She was a monster on the glass, a real force. Myeisha also came in and made some really big plays for us."
Charlotte (4-6) kept the score close over the next several minutes until Alexander converted a second-chance opportunity to put the 49ers ahead 57-56 with 10:35 to play.
The lead would change hands three more times over the next five minutes until Sims's three-pointer from the right wing broke a 66-66 tie and put Stetson ahead for good.
"The play was not set up for that, but (Charlotte) kept sagging on me, so I took the opportunity to shoot it," Sims said. "I had not taken a three since the first half, and I was open, so it was more of a 'why not?' If I had missed it I knew I would have had to make up for it somehow."
Sims would connect on another key 15-foot jumper with 2:35 to play, and Hall battled for a huge offensive rebound and put-back with one minute on the clock to put Stetson ahead by five.
"I thought Sasha's three and Myeisha's big rebound really separated the game down the stretch where they had to foul us," Bria said. "That was a good spot to be in. Then you have to hit those free throws at the end (and we did)."
Brianti Saunders (13 points) and Jama Sharp (12 points) also scored in double figures for the Hatters, who won for the 21st time in their last 22 games at home. Sharp added six assists, five steals, and four rebounds, while Saunders knocked down all seven of her free throw attempts.
Gabby Tyler scored 18 points to lead the 49ers, who outrebounded the Hatters 47-34. Charlotte picked up 24 offensive rebounds and converted those into 21 second chance opportunities. The Hatters also had 21 second-chance points on 14 offensive rebounds.
"Having given up 24 offensive rebounds, we are very fortunate to win this game," Bria said. "They are a very hard team to keep off the glass. However, we got stops when we needed to, and we took care of the ball down the stretch against their pressure."
Stetson avenged a loss to Charlotte last season in a game played on the 49ers home court. Tuesday's game featured 14 ties and 10 lead changes.
"It's definitely a big deal for us," Sims said. "We prepare for every game and every team the same way- we have to play tough and execute the game plan. We can take a win like this and really build off of it."
The Hatters won't have to wait long to try and build off the victory. Stetson will host the 26th annual Hatter Classic this weekend at the Edmunds Center. Stetson will face Murray State on Friday and Nicholls State on Saturday.
Game Notes: Stetson won the points in the paint battle 38-32 ... The Hatters went to the line four times in the first half but 24 times in the second half ... Sasha Sims scored in double figures for the 17th straight game and went over the 1300-point mark for her career ... Cherisse Burris had her third double-double of the season, sixth of her career ... Stetson has had 73 wins in the last four years, tying a four-year program record.