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Williams scores 33, Gardner-Webb women win Big South title

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 05 Womens Big South Championship

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 05: Jhessyka Williams (12) of the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs smiles after making a three pointer during the Big South Championship against the High Point Panthers on March 5, 2023 at Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, NC. (Photo by David Jensen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Jhessyka Williams scored 33 points, 20 in the second half, and top-seeded Gardner-Webb defeated No. 2 seed High Point 74-61 in the Big South Tournament championship game on Sunday night.

Gardner-Webb (29-4), the first team to go 18-0 in the Big South, extended its winning streak to 21 games. The Runnin’ Bulldogs will make their second NCAA Tournament appearance and their first since 2011.

Williams, the regular-season Big South most outstanding player, made 12 of 19 shots overall, 2 of 4 3-pointers, and 7 of 10 free throws. She had 11 rebounds and surpassed 2,000 career points when she hit a long two-pointer in the first quarter.

Layken Cox had 16 points and 15 rebounds for Gardner-Webb and Ki’Ari Cain added 14 points.

The Panthers scored the last six points of the third quarter, taking a 49-48 lead when Jenson Edwards beat the buzzer with a mid-range jumper. But the Panthers missed their first eight shots of the fourth quarter and by the time Williams wrapped up a personal 10-0 run with 5:10 remaining, the Runnin’ Bulldogs led 60-49. The Panthers went six minutes without scoring before Skylar Curran hit two free throws and seven minutes without a field goal before Edwards made a layup.

Jenson Edwards scored 18 points, Nakyah Terrell 14, and Curran 11 for High Point (17-14).

Both teams relied heavily on their starters. Not only were there a total of two bench points in the game, but only three players scored in the second half for Gardner-Webb until Lauren Bevis made two free throws in the final minute.