FERRUM, Va. — Ferrum College left no doubt who the champion of the USA South was after an 82-56 shellacking of Christopher Newport University, crowning them the 2012 USA South Women's Basketball Tournament Champion on Sunday afternoon inside Swartz Gymnasium.
The Panthers continue to build upon their best season in program history, improving to 23-5 on the year. The Captains drop to 22-6 and will have to wait until tomorrow to see if they earned an at-large berth into the tournament.
The Black and Gold went to the 3-ball early and often as Jacole Hairston and Tesla Akers combined for three 3-pointers in the early going to establish an 11-4 lead less than three minutes in.
Akers' shot from deep at the 17:48 mark made her the 17th member of the Ferrum women's basketball 1,000-point club. The junior hailing from Princeton, W.Va. has 1,020 points in three seasons with Ferrum.
CNU responded with a 7-0 spurt to tie the game, following a Camry Green jumper. However, the Panthers roared back by outscoring the visitors 18-7 over the next 10 minutes to reclaim the lead they would never relinquish.
The Captains would cut their deficit to single digits, 31-22, thanks to a Nicole Mitchell jumper, but FC made the final two baskets—Akers converted an acrobatic reverse layup and a fast break pull-up jumper in the lane to grab a 35-22 halftime edge.
With 11:25 remaining in the title tilt, Mitchell nailed a trey bomb from the far wing to trim CNU's deficit to nine once again, but the Panthers went on a 29-11 run, grabbing their largest lead of the game (80-53) with 1:50 to go.
FC cruised from there, en route to its third straight victory. The Panthers shot 47.2 percent from the floor, while holding the Captains to 36.7 percent. The more staggering number is from 3-point land where the Black and Gold shot a season-high 47.4 percent (9-19), including Akers' 5-for-8 performance.
Akers was named the USA South Tournament Most Valuable Player after her season-high 23-point outing. Right behind her in scoring were Shea Smith and Kristen Keith, who tallied 16 and 12, respectively.
Smith and Keith also earned a spot on the all-tournament team. Keith continues to climb the all-time scoring ladder; she is 23 points shy of breaking the mark set by Tara Toland (1,501).
Kelsey Frazier added 10 points off the bench for the hosts, who won the battle of the boards 46-28.
Tia Perry and Mitchell paced the Captains' scoring attack with 15 points each.
Coach Bryan Harvey's squad will await tomorrow's announcement on where the Panthers will be playing in the first round of the playoffs. Check back tomorrow evening as the tournament pods will be released by the NCAA selection committee around 2:30 p.m.