DeLand, Fla. - The Stetson women's basketball team assured itself of playing in the General Shale Brick Atlantic Sun Conference Championships for the eighth consecutive season after a 65-52 win at A-Sun rival Kennesaw State on Saturday. Senior center Natasha Graboski (Upper Sandusky, Ohio) put up a 17-point, 14-rebound double-double while senior guard Tierra Brown (Orlando, Fla.) added 17 points of her own to lead the Hatters, who improved to 13-11 overall and 9-6 in A-Sun play. KSU fell to 7-16 (4-11 A-Sun).
The Hatters played tough defense down the stretch, holding the Lady Owls without a field goal for the final six minutes of the game. Kennesaw State shot just 28.8 percent (19-66) from the field, including 8.3 percent (1-12) from beyond the arc. Stetson clinched an A-Sun tournament spot before the game even went final due to Mercer's loss to Florida Gulf Coast.
Stetson erased an eight-point deficit with 11:32 left in the first half with a 10-2 run but did not take its first lead of the game until late in the half. Brown's layup with 44 seconds left enabled the Hatters to take a 27-26 lead into the locker room.
The second half belonged squarely to Stetson as Graboski's two free throws with 18:41 to play gave the Hatters a 29-28 lead they would never relinquish. Those free throws sparked a 17-4 Stetson spurt that left it with a 12-point edge with 11:39 to play. KSU didn't go quietly, chopping its deficit down to 54-50 with just under six minutes to go, but would manage no field goals and just two for six free throw shooting from then on.
Graboski needed just nine field goal attempts to score her 17 points, going nine for 10 from the charity stripe. Six of her 14 rebounds were on the offensive glass; Stetson out-rebounded Kennesaw State 46-42 on the night. Sophomore guard Victoria McGowan (Inkster, Mich.) joined Graboski and Brown in double figures with 10 points and five assists. Freshman forward Sasha Sims (Fayetteville, Ga.) grabbed nine rebounds and scored seven points in her first college game in her home state.
Sametria Gideon scored 22 points and pulled down 16 rebounds to keep Kennesaw State within striking distance nearly singlehandedly. Lisa Capellan (10 points) was the only other Lady Owl in double figures. Stetson frustrated leading KSU scorer Angie Smith (14.3 ppg entering the contest) all evening, holding her to just two points on 1-12 shooting.
The Hatters visit Mercer at 7 p.m. Monday in a game that will be televised throughout the Southeast on CSS Sports. Local fans with Bright House cable are also in luck as Bright House Sports Network (Channel 47/ HD Channel 1147) will carry the game as well. Matt Stewart will call the play-by-play with former Stetson head women's basketball coach Dee Romine taking up color analyst duties. Romine is also Hatter Vision's regular color analyst, pairing with Bill Topping on home broadcasts.
A link to Mercer's Live Stats is available at GoHatters.com; Hatter Vision subscribers can watch the online broadcast (also available at ESPN3.com) at no extra cost.