Women win 13th Mid-America Classic

Thirteen turned out to be a lucky number for the Missouri women's basketball team Saturday.

The Tigers defeated a pesky Brigham Young team 71-66 in the championship game of the 20th annual Mid-America Classic at the Hearnes Center.

The title was MU's 13th in the tournament. The Tigers reclaimed the title after losing it to Butler in the championship game last year.

Both teams came out in a defensive mode, with BYU concentrating heavily on MU's leading scorer, Julie Helm (22.8 points per game). A 58 percent shooter, Helm was held to six first-half points on 2-for-9 shooting.

"There were a few shots that were wide open ... the rest were just forced," Helm said. "They were in my face."

The Tigers broke a 16-16 tie with a 9-0 run late in the half, but the Cougars countered with a run of their own to cut the lead to just two at halftime.

Tanisha Johnson (nine points, three assists) and tournament MVP Kesha Bonds (eight points, six rebounds) led the Tigers in the first half.

Helm was a different player in the second half. She was more aggressive and got to the free-throw line more often, hitting 7-of-8 from the foul line to help seal the victory. She was also 4-for-5 from the field and finished with 21 points.

However, Helm saved her best for last.

With 3:15 remaining and Missouri up by one, Helm picked up a loose ball, penetrated to the basket and hit the shot while getting fouled.

She converted the free throw to put the Tigers up 66-62. Free throws helped Missouri ice the game, and the championship, the rest of the way.

The Tigers had four players in double figures for the second consecutive night. Johnson ended the night with 14 points, and Bonds posted a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

"It wasn't pretty, but it was a 'W,'" said coach Joann Rutherford. "We just kept working. I'd say that's why we won. We kept getting after it on defense. It was a total effort tonight."

Fans that showed up for the consolation game were treated to two nail-biting games for the price of one. New Orleans led 49-34 with 17 minutes remaining, but UNC-Charlotte clawed back to tie it 69-69 with 3:42 left.

The 49ers took an 82-80 lead on two free throws by Nikki Richardson with nine seconds left, but Amber Magner hit a three-pointer with two seconds remaining, lifting New Orleans to an 83-82 win.

The all-tournament team included Jenny Anderson (UNO), Richardson (UNCC), Kari Gallup and Barbie Carmichael (BYU), and Helm and Bonds.

The Tigers go on the road to Western Illinois on Thursday.

The Westerwinds (0-5) have yet to win this season.

It will be the Tigers' first road game, beginning a stretch of four games away from home.

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