KINGSPORT, Tenn. – Junior guard Amber Taylor turned in the best individual performances of the 2013 Appalachian Athletic Conference Women's Basketball Tournament to lead Union to the title game with a 65-53 win over No. 2 seed Tennessee Wesleyan on Friday.
The third-seeded Lady Bulldogs (21-9 overall) will play No. 5 seed Reinhardt (Ga.) for the conference tournament championship on Saturday at 2 p.m. The winner will receive an automatic berth to the 2013 NAIA Division II Women's Basketball National Championship Tournament in Sioux City, Iowa, on March 6-12.
Reinhardt advanced to the championship game with a 61-52 victory over top-seeded Milligan (Tenn.) earlier on Friday. The tournament is being held at the MeadowView Marriott Conference Resort & Convention Center in Kingsport, Tenn.
Taylor recorded a career-high 30 points, shooting 10-for-20 from the floor and 8-of-9 from the foul line. She also had five rebounds, three assists and three steals. Her previous career best was 29 against Alice Lloyd (Ky.) on Nov. 3, 2012. Taylor's 30 points is also a tournament high thus far.
Play was tight throughout, especially in the first half as neither team had more than a five-point advantage. Union owned a 22-18 lead after a Taylor bucket with 10:17 to go, but Tennessee Wesleyan responded with a 10-1 rally to take a 28-23 edge following a Courtney Gobble basket at the 7:40 mark.
Union closed the half outscoring Tennessee Wesleyan 10-6 but went into the locker room down 34-33 at the break.
Heather Gibson gave Tennessee Wesleyan a 38-35 lead early in the second half, but Union flipped a switch and began to take over the game. Using a 19-4 run, Union built a 52-42 cushion. Haley Perkins scored on a layup to give Union the 10-point edge with 9:13 remaining.
Tennessee Wesleyan tried to battle back but could not get any closer than seven points of Union with the final time coming after a two Gibson free throws with 1:23 left, making it 58-51 Union.
Union closed out the game on a 7-2 run to seal the 65-53 victory.
After Taylor, Lindsey Waters turned in another double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. It is her 13th double-double of the season and 33rd of her career, tying Brooke Smith for the program record. Alyson Roberts chipped in 10 points .
For Tennessee Wesleyan, Gibson led the way with 18 points to go along with seven rebounds. Courtney Gobble helped out with 10 points and seven rebounds.
Tennessee Wesleyan outrebounded Union 42-38, but Union shot better from the floor. Union made 24-of-58 shots (41.4 percent) but connected on only 27.8 percent (5-for-18 shots) from long range. On the flip side, Tennessee Wesleyan hit 36.7 percent (18-of-49 shots) from the floor and was 5-for-20 on 3-point attempts.
Union is seeking back-to-back conference tournament championships, while Reinhardt is seeking its first-ever in the AAC. The last team to win back-to-back tournament titles was Tennessee Wesleyan in 2010 and 2011. Union won back-to-back crowns in 2007 and 2008.