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Associated Press, Published March 06 2012

South Dakota State rallies for Summit League women's championship

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Jill Young made the go-ahead free throws with 7.1 seconds left in overtime and South Dakota State overcame a 17-point deficit to beat UMKC 78-77 Tuesday and win the Summit League tournament championship for a fourth straight year.

The Jackrabbits (24-8) earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament with their 15th win in 16 games. Jennie Sunnarborg and Tara Heiser added 12 points apiece for SDSU, which survived an incredible individual performance by UMKC’s Dayon Hall-Jones.

Hall-Jones, who finished with 27 points, scored 19 of her team’s 26 points during a 12-minute stretch of the second half and had the ball at the end of the game after Young’s free throws gave the top-seeded Jackrabbits the lead. She drove into the lane and got off a shot that bounced off the backboard just before the buzzer.

Kim Nezianya had 17 points and 12 rebounds for UMKC (22-11), which was playing for its first Summit championship.

Eilise O’Connor, who had five points on 2-for-8 shooting in regulation, made back-to-back jumpers to give the Kangaroos a 77-76 lead with 30 seconds left in overtime.

Young’s shot on the other end clanged off the rim, and the Jackrabbits got the ball back with 11.2 seconds left on the alternating possession after Sunnarborg and Hailey Houser went to the floor in a scrum.

Young got the ball on the inbound pass and was fouled on the baseline by LeAndrea Thomas with 7.1 seconds left. Young swished both free throws.

Hall-Jones drove hard into the lane on the final play but couldn’t draw a foul call, and her shot was too hard to go in.

UMKC, the tournament’s third seed, came into the game off seven straight wins since losing to South Dakota State on Feb. 11.

The Jackrabbits, 12-0 all-time in Summit League tournament games, won their sixth straight meeting with the Kangaroos.

Victory looked improbable after they shot 29 percent in the first half and found themselves down 17 points late in the half.

But SDSU used a 14-0 run bridging the halves, with the 6-foot-2 Sunnarborg becoming a big factor after going three-quarters of the game without a field goal and just two points.

The game evolved into a second-half battle between her and Hall-Jones, who did all she could to keep the Jackrabbits from pulling away.

SDSU looked like a shoo-in for a fourth straight NCAA tournament after beating IPFW by 21 points in the quarterfinals and IUPUI by 25 in the semifinals.

But in a final played 50 miles from its Brookings campus and a throng of Jackrabbits backers at Sioux Falls Arena, SDSU came out and missed seven straight shots and 19 of its first 24 against a UMKC team it had beaten five straight times.

The Kangaroos, with a small but vocal group of fans behind their bench, jumped out to leads of 9-0, 19-6 and 33-16 before the Jackrabbits showed any semblance of offense.

Nezianya made three shots in a row and five of her first six, and Jade Tinner’s layup gave the Kangaroos their first double-digit lead 8 minutes into the game.

The Jackrabbits began hurrying shots, missing many of them badly.

“Pass the ball,” frustrated SDSU coach Aaron Johnston barked, stomping his feet and clenching his fists after Ashley Eide forced an off-balance 3-point attempt late in the first half.

Fortunately for Johnston and his team, UMKC was struggling as well at that point, and the Jackrabbits managed to close within 36-27 at the half when Gabrielle Boever hit a 3-pointer from the wing with 2 seconds left.