NCAA Women's Basketball : Georgia, Old Dominion Gain Final

Times Staff Writer

Georgia's women's basketball team found yet another way to defeat an opponent Friday night, this time in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament.

On a night when their usually tenacious half-court trap failed to faze Western Kentucky, and with their running game stuck in first gear, the Bulldogs used their superior strength and size to wear down their opponent, 91-78.

That strength came mostly in the form of 6-2, 180-pound center Katrina McClain, who scored a career-high 25 points to lead Georgia's win before 7,648 fans at the Frank Erwin Special Events Center.

The Bulldogs (29-4) will meet Old Dominion Sunday for the national championship. Old Dominion had 57 team rebounds while beating Northeast Louisiana, 57-47, in the other semifinal.

Guard Teresa Edwards actually was the game's leading scorer for Georgia with 29 points. But 17 came after the Bulldogs had built a 59-48 lead with 12 minutes remaining.

It was McClain, who sat out the first meeting between the teams in December with an ankle injury, who turned the game around at the start of the second half.

Western Kentucky, which won the December game, 72-67, received an excellent individual performance Friday night from forward Lillie Mason, who scored 27 points. But the Hilltoppers (28-6) failed to contain the Bulldogs.

With the game tied, 34-34, as the second half began, McClain powered inside for two baskets and then hit a jumper to give Georgia a 40-36 lead. Six minutes later, McClain scored on a fast break and then converted a three-point play for a 57-46 lead.

Georgia kept Western Kentucky at a distance with some excellent free-throw shooting, hitting 9 of 10 attempts in the last 10 minutes. Georgia also shot 70% from the floor in the second half and 58% for the game.

McClain was a force inside as she made 10 of her 12 shots, pulled down 14 rebounds and blocked 7 shots. Forward Janet Harris had 12 points and 12 rebounds.

"They took advantage of the fact that we're not a physically strong basketball team," Western Kentucky Coach Paul Sanderford said. "We just couldn't defense them. We didn't match up well."

Sunday's championship game should be a better matchup.

Old Dominion will be shooting for its third national title but its first in the NCAA. The Lady Monarchs won in 1979 and 1980 in the Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women.

Old Dominion (30-3) won Friday night on the strength of Bridget Jenkins' outside shooting, the inside play of Tracy Claxton and Medina Dixon, and a half-court defense that slowed Northeast Louisiana in the first half.

Jenkins, who became a starter Feb. 5, scored 16 points in the first half and finished with 18. She had been averaging five a game.

"Everyone is usually so concerned with Dixon and Claxton that they tend to overlook the other players," Jenkins said. "I'm a streak shooter, but they probably thought I was lucky."

Jenkins kept Old Dominion in the game during the first half, and Claxton and Dixon took over in the second. Claxton had 11 points and a game-high 21 rebounds, while Dixon scored 10 points, including two baskets in the final four minutes that kept the Lady Monarchs ahead by six points. Dixon also grabbed 14 rebounds.

Old Dominion's 57 team rebounds can be attributed to Northeast Louisiana's poor shooting (21 of 74 for 28%), but the Indians did come out hot.

After Northeast Louisiana scored eight straight points for an early 8-3, lead, Old Dominion Coach Marianne Stanley switched her defense to a 1-3-1, half-court trap. It trap was so effective that Northeast Louisiana was unable to score for 5 1/2 minutes.

"That shook them up and kept (point guard Eun Jung) Lee away from the basket," Stanley said. "She was a little bit apprehensive and couldn't penetrate with authority."

Northeast Louisiana (30-2) was led by center Lisa Ingram, with 18 points, and forward Chana Perry, with 15. Lee, who had averaged 18 points and 9 assists, was never a factor, except for two one-handed, no-look lob passes to Ingram that resulted in baskets. Lee, who played with a deep thigh bruise, finished with just eight points and two assists.

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