By Bryce Thompson
With 4.7 seconds left FGCU’s Ashli O’Neal hit a game-winning layup to give the Eagles the Cancun Challenge championship over South Dakota State in the 71-70 victory. The Eagles have now won five-straight games over some tough opponents during that stretch.
During FGCU’s winning weekend, it defeated last year’s national runner-up in Notre Dame, the No. 20 ranked USF, and South Dakota State who made it to the NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen a year ago. FGCU is building an already impressive resume this season and hopes to be ranked nationally this coming week.
The Eagles were lead by Keri Jewett-Giles’ 24 points with six three-pointers on the night. FGCU as a team was outshot by SDSU with 40% from the field, while South Dakota shot 47%.
A close first half put the Eagles behind 35-33 at the break, foreshadowing an epic finish for the in-season tournament championship.
FGCU entered the fourth quarter down seven and quickly closed the gap with 14 straight points from Jewett-Giles to give the Eagles the lead. Four different lead changes led to a 68-63 advantage for SDSU with 33 seconds left.
Davion Wingate began to show her veteran leadership late with a clutch three, followed by a defensive stop from the Eagles which lead to a foul on a Wingate shot. After hitting all three foul shots, FGCU took a 69-68 lead with 13 seconds left.
Coming off a timeout, South Dakota ran an inbounds play which led to a big shot to take a 70-69 lead, but then the magic happened. Ashli O’Neal’s game-winner sent the Eagles into celebration as they took home the tournament championship.
FGCU women’s basketball will be back in action on the road against Houston on Dec. 4 in a 3 p.m. matchup.