SAN ANTONIO — Shaw came into the NCAA Division Womens Elite Eight unranked and in some cases underestimated.
The Lady Bears are returning home as Division II champs with plenty of respect.
In winning its first national title, Shaw got the upper hand over second-ranked Ashland (Ohio) by employing its reliable defense en route to an 88-82 come-from-behind overtime victory Friday night at Greehey Arena.
Much of that came from Aslea Williams, who scored 13 of her 14 points in the second half, Sequoyah Griffin (21 points), Brittany Ransom (12 points) and tournament MVP Kyria Buford (10 points).
In overtime, Williams, who grabbed 11 rebounds, owned the inside and poured in four points, two coming off three of her offensive rebounds. The defensive pressure, which created 12 of Ashlands 22 turnovers in the second half, remained intact.
Weve been through a lot this year, Spencer said. We knew when we got to the Elite Eight, we couldnt just be there. We had to win a national championship. We had to win.
After falling behind by 14 points in the second half, Shaws outlook wasnt looking favorable.
Not only was Ashland (33-2) pounding the boards with a 26-14 advantage, the Lady Bears couldnt stop guard Kari Stutzman, who had 20 of her 32 points, and Kari Daugherty, who finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds.
The Lady Bears, who ended Ashlands 33-game winning streak, remained calm after slicing the deficit to 43-32.
We felt good about being down by 11, Shaw coach Jacques Curtis said. We werent playing that well, but we felt we were in a good position. We were playing a lot of players to keep our people fresh. We knew if we kept pushing the ball and knew our inside game would open up. We felt in a close game we could wear them down. Thats been our thing all year.
Curtiss prediction was right on the money as Shaw (29-6) climbed back into the contest. Defense provided the spark and the Lady Bears started hitting their shots.
Within a matter of minutes that double-digit became a tie score at 50-50, thanks to the shooting of Griffin, Brittney Spencer and Ransom.
Shaw grabbed the lead on two occasions, but Ashland countered both times and built a 67-62 lead on free throws and a 3-point shot from Lindsey Tenyak.
Once again Shaw worked its way back and took the lead with 1:14 remaining as Stutzmans charge led to Williams bucket.
Williams countered again seconds later when Alyssa Lane picked off an Ashland pass and tossed it to the Shaw post for an easy layup and 72-69 lead.
Shaw, however, wasnt in the clear just yet as Stutzman swished a 3-pointer with 4.5 seconds to send the game into overtime.
Ashlands shot didnt shell-shock the Lady Bears, who took total control in OT.
It was a team thing, Spencer said. Everyone stepped up. We kept playing hard.
Then the celebration began.
Honestly, it feels awesome, Buford said. This is what I have dreamed about since I started playing basketball. I have great teammates and a great coach. Its just great.