WILMINGTON, Del. — Julia Martinez had a triple-double, Kyla McMakin scored 25 points and Saint Louis earned its first NCAA Tournament berth with a 91-85 win over defending champion Massachusetts in the Atlantic 10 championship game on Sunday.
McMakin, on an assist from Martinez, hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:02 left in overtime, starting a 12-0 run she capped with two free throws at 12.7 seconds for an 89-79 lead.
Top-seeded UMass got back to back 3-pointers by Sydney Taylor and Sam Breen in the closing seconds after missing 10-straight shots following Taylor's buzzer-beating 3 at the end of regulation.
Fittingly Martinez, who had 17 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists, four steals and a block for the second triple-double in school history, closed it out with the final two free throws. The tournament MVP had only one turnover in 44 minutes.
Saint Louis coach Rebecca Tillett joined Iowa Lisa Bluder as the only coaches in the women’s game to go to back-to-back NCAA tourneys with different teams. Tillett was at Longwood in the Southern Conference last season while Bluder did it with Drake (2000) and the Hawkeyes (2001).
“This group, resilient, tough, strong,” Tillett said. “I talked about them, they're just so positive at their baseline. That allowed us throughout the nonconference to expand what we were learning. And every day they come back and let's learn again, let's learn again.”
Saint Louis was 3-12 before the New Year and entered February with a 7-16 record.
Kennedy Calhoun and Peyton Kennedy both had 15 points for Saint Louis (17-17), which has won six straight and 10 of 11, including a 77-75 win over UMass 11 days earlier. Brooke Flowers, a St. Louis native who came back for a fifth season, added 13 points. The Billikens made 10 of 12 free throws in OT.
On the go-ahead basket, Martinez stole the ball after UMass rebounded a Billiken miss, then rebounded a miss and fed McMakin on the left wing for the 3. McMakin became the Saint Louis single-season scoring leader (589 points) earlier in the game after coming from Longwood with Tillett.
Taylor had 18 points and Breen, the two-time A-10 Player of the Year, had 17 with 11 rebounds for the Minutewomen (26-6), who were the top seed for the first time. Angelique Ngalakulondi added 15 points, Ber'Nyah Mayo 14 and Destiny Philoxy 12.
There were eight ties in the first half, including 19-19 after one quarter and 37-37 at the break after Mckennah White hit a layup at the buzzer.
There were four more ties in the third quarter but Saint Louis made 3 of 5 3-pointers and took a 59-56 lead.
Want more local sports delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for the 5 On Your Side Sports Plus newsletter.