Stetson's three all-conference performers combined for 53 points as the second-seeded Hatters survived a hard-fought battle with seventh-seeded ETSU 66-55 in the Atlantic Sun quarterfinals Wednesday night at Hawkins Arena.
Shanasa Sanders and Sasha Sims each scored 18 points and Victoria McGowan added 17 points as the Hatters (22-8) advanced to play the Mercer-Jacksonville winner in a semifinal game at 2:30 p.m. Friday.
"It's about time," Stetson head coach Lynn Bria said light-heartedly when asked about the big nights from McGowan, Sanders, and Sims. "Usually it's one of them or two of them, and I've waited three years but it's about time they all played well in the same game. I don't know why they waited so long, but I'm thankful it was today because we needed it."
ETSU junior Destiny Mitchell scored 15 first-half points to help stake the Lady Bucs (8-18) to a 29-28 halftime lead. The Hatters still trailed by one early in the second half when a 12-0 run put Stetson ahead to stay. Ashley Dennis, Sanders, and Sims all hit from behind the arc during that stretch.
ETSU was able to close the gap to five with 1:22 remaining, but four free throws by McGowan and key steal by C.J. Coddington helped seal the victory.
"I thought it was an ugly game overall," Bria said. "We were not very aggressive in the first half, and the tempo was more of their pace. In the second half we came out in the first five minutes and played more of a tempo that we wanted."
Sanders had just four points at halftime but hit four straight shots to start the second half and picked up a key block on the defensive end. She added seven rebounds, four steals, and two assists to her 18-point effort on the night.
"I felt I was very passive on offense and defensive in the first half, so coach told me to be more aggressive on both ends of the floor," Sanders said.
Cherisse Burris added six points and seven rebounds for Stetson, while McGowan dished out five assists.
"ETSU played a good game and had a good gameplan," Bria said. "I thought their zone defense was effective, but once we got used to it we started to do a better job against it in the second half."
Mitchell finished with 23 points to lead ETSU.
The Hatters will enjoy a day of rest on Thursday and await their next opponent for Friday's semifinal. Top-seeded FGCU won Wednesday's other women's quarterfinal game 73-47 vs. Kennesaw State.
Notes: Stetson posted a 22-win season for the second time in school history. The Hatters won a school-record 23 games last season ... Stetson is 9-1 in its last 10 games at Hawkins Arena including 6-1 in the A-Sun tournament ... The game featured three ties and nine lead changes ... Stetson won for the third time this season when trailing at halftime ... Defensively the Hatters clamped down on ETSU in the second half, holding the Lady Bucs to 13 points through the first 16 minutes of the period. The Hatters held ETSU without a field goal for a 9:09 stretch ... Ashley Dennis drew an offensive charge for the third straight game ... The Hatters hit five of their seven three-pointers in the second half ... Victoria McGowan moved into 25th place in the A-Sun all-time scoring list (1492 career points).