Limited to just 21 minutes in a semifinal win over Akron, UB Women's Hoops point guard Stephanie Reid figured to have fresher legs than most in today's MAC Championship between Buffalo and Central Michigan.
After a second half and overtime played almost entirely inside of a single-possession margin, Reid hit a shot for the ages to beat the buzzer and cut down the nets as UB topped the Chippewas 73-71. It is the first MAC Championship for both Buffalo Women's Basketball and their coach Felisha Legette-Jack.
Twice less than two minutes from victory, Buffalo could not close out the Chippewas in regulation and apparently overtime before Reid's heroics. Katherine Ups hit a pair of massive threes in the extra period, and Cassie Oursler hit a last-second free throw, but CMU's Presley Hudson hit a pair of free throws after Reid failed to draw a charge to apparently send the game to a second overtime.
But Reid happens, and UB claimed its fourth game since Monday to win the program's first MAC Championship in their first-ever appearance, and as the eight seed, no less. The extra period only came after UB opened up a 64-60 lead in the final three minutes but Buffalo was forced to defend for overtime at the end of regulation.
Joanna Smith was scintillating for Buffalo, pouring in 23 on 5-9 three-point shooting, while Tinara Moore and Da'Jourie Turner combined for 33 for the Chippewas, though none in the final seven minutes.
As you'd expect from the end of a grueling tournament, UB dug deep into their bench in the win, not only surviving the first half after starting forwards Cassie Oursler and Brittany Morrison both sat for long stretches with fouls, but even hitting the break with a lead after a buzzer-beating three from Courtney Wilkins ended the second quarter. Bulls coach Felisha Legette-Jack went 11-deep before halftime as freshman Mirte Scheper saw her most minutes in three weeks.
The second half saw a slowdown, turn to defense, and again more minutes from freshman point guard Gabi Bade in lieu of Stephanie Reid. In the closing minutes of the third quarter CMU started to heat up from three, but Smith scored 7 consecutive points entering the game's final stretch to give the Bulls a 62-60 lead, extended by a Mirte Scheper putback with 2:42 to play.
The script played out differently from the semifinal win over Akron, but the highlights were similar, featuring UB's deep bench. At one point in the final minutes non of Oursler, Morrison, and Stephanie Reid were on the floor, while Scheper finished with 7 points and 6 rebounds and Bade and Mariah Suchan played nearly 45 combined minutes. Reid finished with 10 points and a career-high 12 assists, eight of which came in the first half.
But UB couldn't get any breathing room when they had the lead and struggled as they have all season to earn free throws, while the Chippewas were a near-perfect 19-20 from the line on the afternoon and played UB nearly even on the boards.
Coach Jack's team will now wait for postseason news - something that seemed a longshot a month ago - after finishing the year on a 9-2 run. The NCAA selection show is Monday.