AT A GLANCE - After winning conference regular season and tournament titles, 15th-ranked Rollins finds itself on the cusp of another championship Monday as the top-seed Tars host six-seed Valdosta State in the NCAA Division II South Region Tournament finals. The Tars have twice played in this game before and are seeking a program first trip to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight.
Rollins (26-5) earned a spot in the championship game by way of a gutsy 69-59 win over Delta State in the semifinals. The Tars shot just 17 percent and scored 19 points in the first half, but hung 50 in the second frame to outdistance the Lady Statesmen. Ashley Jones scored 20 second half points to lead the Tars with 21 for the game. Kourtnie Berry notched 11 with Tera McDaniel chipping in 10. In the quarter finals Rollins got off to a quick start against eighth seed West Alabama, leading by as much as 22 in the first half and then clamping down on defense in the second to post a 71-44 victory. Sarah Blackburn led Rollins with 14 points and six rebounds off the bench while Jasmine Bradley added 11. The Tars enjoyed their best shooting night of the season, hitting 52 percent from the floor.
Valdosta (22-7) strung together two-straight upsets to advance to the championship game. The Lady Blazers beat third-seed Fort Valley State 59-47 in the tournament's opening game, despite shooting just 38 percent. Sczeny Hartry led the way with 20 points while Brittney Nelson tallied 14 points and 14 rebounds. VSU then upset second-seed Florida Southern in the semifinals, 67-63. Hartry again paced the attack with 17 points while Nelson put up 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Rollins had won four-straight heading into the NCAA Tournament, three of which came down to the final play. In the regular season finale at Nova Southeastern, the Tars came back from 17 down to beat the Sharks 62-60 and secure a share of the SSC regular season title. Rollins earned the No. 2 seed in the conference tourney and dispatched Lynn 63-47 in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Rollins scored the last four points of the game to beat Florida Tech 72-68. The following day in the championship game against top-seed Florida Southern, Rollins owned a 22-point advantage in the second half, but had to hold on for a 71-68 win.
Rollins, ranked 15th in the latest USA TODAY/ESPN Division II Coaches Poll, finished the regular season 21-5 overall and 12-4 in the SSC. Head Coach Glenn Wilkes Jr. put together one of the nation's toughest schedules that saw the Tars play six games against opponents in the WBCA's final regular season national poll. Rollins opened the season against defending national champion and then top-ranked Clayton State, narrowly falling 54-51 in Tampa. The Lakers are currently ranked No. 6 in the nation. The following day, Rollins beat 16th-ranked Wisconsin-Parkside 66-58 as the Rangers have since rattled off a 22-4 season and are ranked No. 17 heading into the postseason. Rollins split the series with No. 19 Florida Southern in the regular season as each team defended home court with the Tars winning the rubber match on Sunday. The Tars beat two teams who received votes in the latest national poll, Johnson C. Smith and Holy Family.
Rollins started the first two months of the season 14-1 and went from unranked to No. 7 in the Division II poll. The win streak was halted at Florida Tech, 64-62 on Jan. 21. The Tars bounced back with a win over Nova Southeastern, but lost its next time out to 19th-ranked Florida Southern, 59-56. Five-straight wins followed to get Rollins back into the national top-10 and open up a two-game lead in the SSC standings. Another loss to Florida Tech, followed by a setback at Barry and win at Nova Southeastern, dropped the Tars into a three-way tie in the final conference standings.
ROLLINS IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT - Rollins has been a part of 11 previous NCAA Division II South Region Tournaments, most recently in 2009. The Tars have twice finished runner-up in the tournament, as the No. 3 seed in 2000 and as the top-seed and host in 2004. The Tars enjoyed a streak of five-straight postseason bids from 2003-2007, falling in the quarterfinals on four of the trips. Rollins last postseason run ended at the hands of Arkansas-Monticello, 78-66 in the 2009 event hosted by Delta State. Their last trip to the NCAA Division II South Region Tournament championship game was in 2004, where the top-seed Tars fell to Henderson State seventh-seed Henderson State, 73-62.
THE TARS STARS - Sunshine State Conference Newcomer of the Year Ashley Jones leads Rollins' season box score, averaging 11.9 points per game. She is one of the top 3-point shooters in the SSC, hitting 62-of-174 from long range, while also pulling down 3.7 rebounds a game. The sophomore was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Sunshine State Conference Tournament. Sarah Blackburn and Kourtnie Berry each net eight points off the bench. SSC Defensive Player of the Year and Second Team honoree Paris Moore leads the SSC with 2.8 steals a game, also adding 7.6 points and 4.4 rebounds a night.
THE SILVER FOX - Rollins legend Glenn Wilkes, Jr. (Stetson '81) is in his 26th season at the helm of the Tars program and, with a record of 579-188, is the winningest coach in program history. Wilkes, Jr. is the fifth winningest active coach in Division II (seventh by win total) and is the 13th winningest coach all-time. Wilkes has been named the SSC Coach of the Year a record nine-times and was named the head coach of the Sunshine State Conference Silver Anniversary Team.
700 CLUB - The victory over West Alabama in the semifinals gave the Rollins College Women's basketball program its 700th victory in 42 years as a varsity program. The Tars had never won more than 16 games in a season prior to Glenn Wilkes taking the helm. In his tenure, Rollins has enjoyed 20 seasons with 20 or more victories. Rollins all-time record is 701-362 (.660 winning percentage).