BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Gardner-Webb punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, winning its first Big South Championship since 2011 with a 74-61 win over High Point.

“I’m just proud of this team and how we came together throughout that game,” said Gardner-Webb head coach Alex Simmons.  “We again had a lot of adversity, but that fourth quarter was Gardner-Webb basketball.”

After playing from behind to start the game, and then taking a 35-32 lead into halftime, the Bulldogs found themselves in some trouble in the second half, trailing by one after the third quarter.

Jhessyka Williams had another big night, notching her 2,000th career point, while recording a double-double with 33 points and 11 rebounds, earning her the Big South Tournament MVP.

“Before the game, I looked at her and she had the look in her eyes, and I knew that a Championship was coming for us.”

Across three games in the conference tournament, Williams scored 89 points and grabbed 25 rebounds.

“It’s coming from my teammates just trusting me with the ball in my hands [and] telling me to go to work,” said Williams.  “Without them, I wouldn’t have had any of those points.  It’s them believing in me, telling me that nobody can stop me.”

Williams was not the only one in the double-double club on Sunday night.  Layken Cox put up 16 points, and almost had just as many rebounds with 15 of them.

Ki’Ari Cain rounded out the double-figure scoring for the Bulldogs, contributing 14 points and three assists.

Coach Simmons heavily credited her defense in Sunday’s win, a side of the ball that held the Panthers scoreless for the first several minutes of the fourth quarter while the offense went on a 14-0 run.

“That’s the only thing I wrote on the board before the game ‘Defense Wins Championships,’” said Simmons.  “We had some people come off the bench that we really depend on specifically for defense.  Sarah [Matthews], Tiir [Nyok] and Christina [Deng] came off the bench and they did a great job.”

It was a pretty quiet night for Lauren Bevis who scored 29 points the night before in the semifinal game against Radford.  She only had six points on Sunday in a Championship game that she’ll remember forever.

“It’s amazing.  I’ve never won a championship before in my life in basketball, period,” said Bevis.  “So to be here, my senior year, and to win it with my girls, and my coach, it’s amazing.  It’s the best feeling ever.”

Gardner-Webb gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, and with a 29-4 overall record and going 18-0 in the Big South regular season, the Running Bulldogs are hoping for a little respect from the selection committee.

“I don’t think we deserve a play-in seed,” said Bevis.  “I mean we went undefeated in-conference.  We haven’t lost since the beginning of December.”

The NCAA Selection Show will take place Sunday, March 12th at 8 p.m.