From right, Shaw's Niesha Searles, Kyria Buford, Brittany Ransom and Brittney Spencer react to the buzzer after scoring to beat Metro State 46-45 in the NCAA Division II Women's 2011 Elite Eight National Championship game in St. Joseph.
Brittney Spencer's pass didn't look like it would reach the intended target.
Without the junior guard's vision, Shaw likely would have seen its storybook season come crashing down. Spencer hit Brittany Ransom with a pass that eluded the fingertips of two Metro State defenders in the closing seconds of Tuesday afternoon's Division II national quarterfinal at St. Joseph Civic Arena.
Ransom's spinning layup bounced off the glass and caromed around the rim and down as time expired to give the Bears a 46-45 win.
The Spencer-Ransom connection provided a thrilling end to a game where both teams shot just a shade over 30 percent. The hero proved to be a reserve guard who averages only 6.8 points per game.
"I knew the ball was coming," said Ransom, who led all scorers with 13 points. "I didn't know how much time was left, but I had to make the basket somehow."
Metro State's Brandi Valencia missed a pair of free throws with 6.9 seconds left to set up Shaw's final dash.
Spencer took an outlet pass off the second miss and raced up the left side of the court. She sent a laser-beam pass toward Ransom that seemed destined to end in a turnover.
Instead, Ransom's ensuing layup clearly beat the buzzer for a miraculous finish.
The officials still checked the monitor to make sure. After receiving verification of the game-winning basket, Shaw's players and coaches broke out into a jubilant celebration. The Bears (24-11) play No. 2-ranked Clayton State (33-1) in today's semifinals.
Shaw reaches the national semifinals for the first time.
"It always feels good to I guess make history for Shaw University," Shaw junior guard Kyria Buford said.
Eighth in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association and seeded eighth in the Atlantic Region, Shaw (25-11) continued an incredible 11-game winning streak with the last-ditch victory.
The Bears haven't lost since early February when coach Jacques Curtis first inserted 6-foot-1 University of Maryland transfer Demaria Liles into the lineup.
Liles averaged 16.2 points and 11.5 rebounds per game after debuting in mid-February. Coupled with Buford's 16.8 points per contest average, Shaw started ripping off wins to become the most unlikely participant in this week's Elite Eight.
However, against Metro State (30-3), Shaw trailed by seven at halftime and the pair combined for only nine points.
"Our game plan is to contain them. We end up doing a little more than contain them," Metro State first-year coach Tanya Haave said.
But Buford, who started 0-for-15 from the floor, hit her lone two field goals in the final 2 1/2 minutes. The second -- a 3 with 9 seconds left -- cut Metro State's four-point lead to 45-44.
"That last play, when we're down by four, I felt good about it," Curtis said. "We knew what we wanted to run, and even though Kyria had missed a lot of shots earlier, we still were going to go to the well one more time."
Shaw then fouled Valencia, who missed both attempts to drop the Roadrunners to 7 of 17 from the line overall.
Liles snared the rebound and pushed the ball ahead with Curtis opting to forgo a timeout. Spencer's third assist set up the game-winner, despite Haave's assertion afterward that Ransom traveled.