CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Florida’s Jaterra Bonds dropped in a three-footer with two seconds left, providing the winning margin in a 67-65 decision over host Charlotte in the WNIT Sweet 16 Wednesday night inside Halton Arena in Charlotte, N.C. The loss ends the second-most successful campaign in 49ers history.
In a nip-and-tuck, back-and-forth affair throughout, the visiting Gators netted the final six points in the last minute of regulation to clinch the win. A Ny Hammonds jumper put the Niners on top by four, 65-61, with 1:05 left but on the next Florida (21-14) possession, January Miller answered with a 3-pointer to pull her team within one.
A costly Charlotte turnover led to a foul at the other end. Bonds hit the front of the two-shot opportunity to force a 65-65 tie and Jennifer George flied in for the offensive rebound, keeping the Gators’ hopes alive. Florida called a timeout with 16 seconds remaining to draw up the final sequence.
Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Jennifer Hailey finished her collegiate career with a game-high 19 points, raising her career total to 1,453 and ending in seventh place in school history. She also added a first-half blocked shot, sending the rejection into the stands and extending her consecutive games streak with at least one block to 44.
She converted 8-of-14 field goals and 3-of-6 free throws, while grabbing seven rebounds and swiping two steals in 34 minutes during her final Halton Arena appearance.
Fellow senior Amanda Dowe, an All-Atlantic 10 Third Team selection, ended her 49ers career with her 15th double-double of the season and 23rd of her career with 15 points and a game-best 12 rebounds. She was 7-of-11 from the floor and hit her only free throw, while handing out an assist in 36 minutes.
The program’s final senior, Jai Forney, contributed 11 points on 5-of-8 field goals, to go along with her four rebounds, two assists and a steal in 28 minutes.
Sophomore Hillary Sigmon chipped in 13 points, while junior Ny Hammonds, another All-Atlantic 10 Third Team choice, handed out eight assists.
Bonds paced the Gators with 15 points, while George (14) and Sydney Moss (10) each reached the double-digit plateau. Moss hauled in a team-best nine rebounds, as Charlotte (26-6) won the battle on the glass, 37-to-35.
Unfortunately for the Niners, the final minute was not the only time their offense went cold. Charlotte struggled to score for a 4:27 stretch late in the opening period as Florida turned a five-point deficit into a seven-point advantage with a 12-0 run.
Again, it was Hammonds who provided the 49ers with their five-point cushion, 25-20, on a layup at 4:48 of the first half. However, the Gators used three-straight layups followed by a Lily Svete 3-pointer and old-fashioned three-point play from Miller to turn the tide and take a 32-25 advantage with just 43 seconds left in the stanza.
Dowe answered with a three-point play of her own with 21 seconds left but a fall-away, jumper from the right wing on an offensive rebound dropped in for Moss just before the halftime horn, lifting Florida to a 34-28 edge at the break.
The Gators had started the contest with an 8-2 surge, forcing Charlotte head coach Cara Consuegra to call a timeout at the 16:24 mark. The Niners responded to the call by using a 9-2 spurt in the next four minutes to take their first lead, 11-10.
Charlotte was then able to build a four-point margin, 18-14, on a Hailey free throw at 8:31. Florida crawled back to within a single point twice during the next four minutes but was unable to take the lead until the half-ending surge.
Finding themselves down at the break, the 49ers turned to Sigmon for their first 3-pointer of the contest to slice the deficit in half. After Christin Mercer raced to the other end for a layup on the ensuing possession, the Gators held a five-point advantage, 36-31, with 18:55 to play.
The Niners’ answer was three-consecutive Hailey layups to reclaim the lead at 37-36 with 17:30 left. Florida then pushed its lead to three twice in the next 2:24; however, back-to-back triples from Forney and Sigmon ignited an 8-0 run that put Charlotte back on top, 47-42, at the 12:28 mark.
The 49ers maintained the five-point advantage for the next two minutes before two-straight Mercer layups trimmed the deficit to one, 49-48. After Hailey made it a three-point lead once again, Carlie Needles drained a 3-pointer to knot the score for the third time.
Charlotte did not let the trey affect it, as it was able to mount no more than a three-point cushion in the next 90 seconds. Bonds and Kayla Lewis layups put the Gators back ahead, 57-56, at 6:04. Sigmon countered with her final 3-pointer on the next 49ers possession, as Charlotte surged in front once more.
The two teams traded buckets during a less than a minute stretch from 4:58 to 4:04, but neither team scored again despite the 49ers clinging to the two-point lead prior to the final sequence.
The 38th season of Charlotte women’s basketball closed with numerous records established. It marked the final campaign for the 49ers as an Atlantic 10 member. The next time the Niners step onto the floor they will be a member of Conference USA, their previous home from 1995-96 through 2004-05.
Charlotte Postgame Quotes
Head coach Cara Consuegra
This has been a heck of a season and this game tonight will not take anything away from that. As a coach, obviously I’m a relatively young head coach. In my coaching career, there have not been very many teams that I have been more proud to be a part of. We fought all year; we battled all year to have a very special season. We came a long ways, people on the court and off the court. We developed a championship character that we did not have when I inherited this program frankly. We learned how to battle, we learned what it took to win 26 games, and that is because of the people we have on this team. Our seniors I cannot thank them enough. Jai (Forney), Jennifer (Hailey), Amanda (Dowe). They have just been fantastic role models for this team and the reason in many ways we have won 26 games. We broke many records; we set a lot of history this year. That comes down to character. Obviously basketball matters, and Xs and Os matter, and the play of the young ladies matters, but who they became as people, that is why we won 26 games this season. I am so proud to be their coach and I am so proud to be the head coach at Charlotte.
This was a heck of a game. You know back and forth, exactly what we anticipated. You have two teams that really matched up well in terms of our strengths and our weaknesses. I think they were very much alike and we knew it would come down to a battle like this. I take my team nine times out of 10 to finish, and unfortunately, we were not able to finish the game. Hats off to Florida to find a way to finish again that does not take away from the great season that we had and we will move forward from here.
On discussion of what Florida would run during final timeout
We did not really know. We thought they would iso(late) somebody but for them to iso No. 10 (Bonds), they do not do that a whole lot. We thought they would go to 40 (Moss), maybe 32 (George). They had been isoing us throughout the game so we knew that we needed to be ready for that and be able to have great help side. Unfortunately, we were not able to have good help side but I think Ny played it perfectly. When the kid spun back on her, we did not have help there and she made a good play.
On last few minutes when score was 63-61
Well, we made mistakes offensively. We turned the ball over way too much in that last media around four minutes. Some of those were forced and some of those were errors that we made. This obviously made it very tough for us to score and put us in unfortunate situations. What I liked about my team was when we made those mistakes we busted our tails on defense and were able to get the ball back. You know almost every time we were able to get the ball back and give ourselves another chance. That goes back to what I was saying about our championship character. At times this team would give up the ball and not run back on defense but tonight we did not do that. We fought. I liked our ability to get back and make stops. At the end, we just kind of ran out of time.
On the overall season
I think it starts No. 1 with our seniors. We made a commitment in April of last year after we lost in the first round of the WNIT after winning 16 games, which is not the standard for this program. It never will be for this program as long as I am coaching here. We made a commitment back then to be different and to develop some character traits that we felt we fell short in. Playing with heart, playing with effort, having the will to win, not giving up things like that. Not giving up when adversity strikes. We started working in April we promised each other we would be different. Our seniors led us in that. Jai, Jenn, Amanda were incredible leaders. They were what you want out of seniors. They were perfect but they battled to be better. They believed in my vision, my staff and me. Every day they went out to accomplish that and you could see it building our team. We were not perfect in November or December. We dropped games we did not think we should drop. You could see it build as we went in to conference play. We really took off, that was a full year of work it did not happen over a couple of months. It started with a commitment we made in April. It changed this program in many ways.
On the very tight game
We made some mistakes in transition defense, which was the No. 1 mistake in the game. Florida was a much better transition offense team than a half-court offense team. They were able to get some buckets on us to close the half. We did a great job of rebounding, which was our second biggest key to winning the game. We only gave up five offensive boards in the first half. Three of those five were given up in that last few minutes. The put-back at the buzzer. Those were the significant things mistakes breakdowns we made to give them the lead in the last few minutes of the half.
Senior Jennifer Hailey
Senior Jai Forney
On looking back on collegiate experience
It was great to play for Charlotte I liked the environment. I liked Niner Nation they bring a lot to us. They keep us going. I just want to thank everyone here at Charlotte.
On looking back on collegiate experience
Playing for Charlotte and being from Charlotte is an amazing thing. Just going out and having Charlotte on your jersey. Playing in front of amazing fans and having everyone there to support you. Having my family here was a great thing.