Texas A&M Advances To First SEC Championship Game

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DULUTH, Ga. (AP) -- Courtney Williams' jumper with 33 seconds remaining gave No. 19 Texas A&M the lead and the Aggies held on to beat ninth-ranked Tennessee 66-62 in the Southeastern conference semifinals Saturday, ending the Lady Vols' bid for a fourth straight championship.

Courtney Walker had 18 points to lead four scorers in double figures for Texas A&M (23-9), which will face either Kentucky or Georgia on Sunday for the championship.

Texas A&M will be playing in its sixth consecutive conference championship game. Saturday’s victory was A&M’s first win in four meetings with the Tennessee Lady Vols.

“How about those young Aggies,” head coach Gary Blair said in the post-game press conference. “We might not have had Johnny Manziel, but we had some freshman step up. I had leadership out of Pratcher in the first half, knocking down shots. Bone’s second half was very, very good. I think she’s the best post player in the nations and she’s hard to guard. Courtney Walker, a great freshman. She made life a lot better by hitting those two free-throws and not letting us have to go down and play hope-they-miss defense.”

Taber Spani had a career-high 33 points for top-seeded Tennessee (24-7), the SEC's regular-season champion. The Aggies, the No. 4 seed, are playing in their first SEC tournament.

Spani's last basket tied the game at 62 before freshman Courtney Williams gave the Aggies the lead following a Tennessee timeout with only her second basket of the game.

Kamiko Williams' driving attempt for the Lady Vols bounced off the rim and Walker made two free throws with 6 seconds remaining to pad the lead.

Following a long miss by Tennessee's Ariel Massengale, the Aggies converged at midcourt for a brief celebration.

Kelsey Bone and Adrienne Pratcher each had 15 points, and Kristi Bellock had 12 for Texas A&M.

Meighan Simmons had 10 points for the Lady Vols. No other Tennessee player scored in double figures.

Spani, a junior averaging 10.2 points, made 11 of 13 shots from the field - including five of six from 3-point range. She set her previous career high with 24 points against Vanderbilt on Jan. 24. It was her only game with 20 or more points in the regular season.

Spani became the first Tennessee player to score 30 points against a conference opponent this season.

Despite 18 first-half points from Spani, Texas A&M needed an 11-0 run late in the half to lead 35-33 at the break.

Tennessee led 22-18 when a basket by Bellock started the streak of 11 unanswered points by the Aggies. Bellock had six points and Bone had a three-point play in the run.

Spani sank a 3-pointer to end the spurt and added a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the half.

Spani continued her hot shooting after the break, scoring the first eight points of the second half. The junior opened the half with a jumper following a turnover by Bone and then sank two 3-pointers. Spani's personal 8-0 run gave the Lady Vols a 41-35 lead.

The Aggies were scoreless for the first 4:33 of the half before Walker made one of two free throws. Walker ended Texas A&M's field-goal drought with a jumper about 5 minutes into the half.

Tennessee led 50-40 before the Aggies answered with an 8-0 run and finally pulled even at 52-all on two free throws by Walker.

Tickets are available for the championship game for $18 each, they can be purchased at tickets.12thmanfoundation.com. Tomorrow’s Championship Game will be aired on ESPN2 at 5:00 p.m. (CT).

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