GREENVILLE, S.C. – The top two teams in the Southeast Region for nearly the entirety of the 2017-18 season meet in a rubber contest Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. as seventh-ranked Carson-Newman and 21st-ranked Wingate meet for the 2018 South Atlantic Conference Tournament Championship.
"Wingate is a great team," Carson-Newman coach Mike Mincey said. "They do a lot of things well especially scoring in the paint. It will take a team effort to try and contain their post game. Since day one this is the game we wanted to play in and we are excited for the opportunity."
Carson-Newman (28-2) and Wingate (25-4) have been the top two teams in the NCAA regional poll released over the last three weeks as each team won on its home floor during the regular season.
The two faced off eight days ago in Jefferson City as the Lady Eagles led wire-to-wire and by as many as 29 points to cinch its sixth regular-season championship and first in 21 years.
Haris Price (Gatlinburg, Tenn.) finished with a game-high 28 points going 12-for-12 from the free-throw and 6-for-10 from the charity stripe while handing out five assists. She was named the conference's co-player of the year with Wingate's Marta Miscenko.
Coincidentally, the only time the two programs met in the final round of the league tournament was the last time the SAC had a shared Player of the Year award. It was C-N's Brooke Johnson and Wingate's Tanetra Barrett in 2004-05.
The Lady Eagles dominated in the March 6, 2005 title game for the program's only tournament title winning 64-43. It was a three-point game at halftime when the Lady Eagles held the Bulldogs to 6-for-27, 22 percent, shooting in the second half. Johnson was named the tournament's MVP posting 15 points and seven boards. Tiffany Parker added nine points and a game-high 12 caroms.
C-N and Wingate have met 11 times in the SAC Tournament with the Lady Eagles holding a 6-5 overall edge as they square off in the postseason for the first time since March 3, 2012 when the Bulldogs won 66-49 in the semifinals.
For Mincey's group, the program is back in the title game for the first time in 11 eleven years holding a 1-4 record through five trips into the final round (1995, 1998, 1999, 2005 and 2007).
A victory for the Lady Eagles would put C-N on top in the history of the league with 29 wins in a single season. Wingate (1990-91), Presbyterian (1999-00) and Lincoln Memorial (2016-17) all had 28 wins. It would be the second-most wins by a C-N team in the history of the program (32 in 1984-85).
Sunday will be the 10th meeting in the title game between the top two teams from the regular season as one seeds hold a 5-4 all-time advantage having won two of the last three. The last time the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds squared off came in 2014 when second-seeded Wingate beat top-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne 77-73.
Carson-Newman keeps a recent tradition going as the top seed in the league has advanced to the championship game in each of the last eight seasons but has lost in the final in each of the last four campaigns. Anderson was the last regular season champion to take home the tournament title doing so with a 55-52 win over sixth-seeded Tusculum on March 10, 2013. Overall, the No. 1 team is 11-11 in the title round.
Mincey's group is looking for two wins in the same season against Wingate for the first time since winning the season series in 2013 winning by a combined nine points during the two meetings.
Wingate has won the tournament title seven times including three of the last four seasons. The Bulldogs are one of six teams to win back-to-back championships but only one has won it three times, Presbyterian from 1998-2000.
Coach Ann Hancock's team has won eight straight SAC Tournament games since losing at the No. 2 seed in the quarterfinals to seventh-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne on March 4, 2015.
Wingate held off a charge from third-seeded Anderson to clinch a spot in the title game winning 53-50 on Saturday as the Trojans could not get off a final shot after a missed foul shot. Marta Miscenko was the best player on the floor with 21 points and 13 rebounds. The senior went 9-for-17 from the field while her teammates combined to go 9-for-43 from the field in the semifinal round.
Carson-Newman has led for 67:06 through the first two meetings and by as many as 29 points but Wingate is outscoring the Lady Eagles 61-25 in the fourth quarter this year shooting 21-for-34 from the field combined between the two fourth frames of the year. Conversely C-N is leading the first three quarters by a 115-78 scoring tally.
Broadcast coverage Sunday afternoon starts at 12:45 p.m. with "The AEC Countdown to Tip-Off" on the Eagle Sports Network's flagship station 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and cneagles.com/live for the audio stream.
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