By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
Two SIAC womens basketball teams, conference champions Benedict and runner-up Kentucky State, are headed to the smaller version of the Big Dance.
Both teams were among eight chosen to play in the women's Division II tournament's NCAA South region, which begins play Friday.
After roaring through the season 27-2 and convincingly winning the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles, Benedict will face seventh-seeded Florida Tech (20-9) in the NCAA South Region first round on Friday. The winner takes on the victor between third seed Delta State and six seed Nova Southeastern.
Benedict heads into the tournament ranked No. 12 nationally. But they needed an early second quarter spurt last weekend to put away Kentucky State (24-4), a team that had won 17 games in a row and Benedict one of their two losses this season (the other was to Claflin).
Even though the led the SIAC in scoring, a smothering defense has been their calling card all season as the Lady Tigers led the SIAC in scoring defense.
"We worked hard all year long," Benedict head coach James Rice said after the game, according to the school's sports website. "Defensively, that's where we hang out hats. Our defense got us back in the game. I thought how we took control of the game was defensively."
They face a tough opponent in Florida Tech (20-9), a team making their first appearance in the NCAA tourney since 2012. The lost in the Sunshine State Conference finals to champion Tampa. But they've played in a conference where four of the eight teams are in the NCAA tourney field.
Kentucky State won't have much time to put the end of their winning streak behind them. They are now seeded fifth and face four seed Florida Southern in the first round in Jackson, Tenneseee.
The Thorobredettes have been nearly just as good as Benedict on offense, as they are a deep team of scorers where anyone has a chance to get hot on a given evening. They are led by a balanced trio in Jamesha Mosley (11.8 points per game), Shala Horton (10.8 ppg) and Logan Powell (9.7 ppg).
"It's by committee and what we dont want to happen if for a team to be able to focus on certain players to beat us," KSU head coach Serena King-Coleman told The News Journal on Feb. 16. "I'm confident that we have several players that can score double digit points on any given night and pull it through for us. It just isn't always pretty."
They take on an equally tough Florida Southern squad that was 24-5 this season. They were one of the top scoring teams in the Sunshine State Conference, averaging nearly 72 points a game.