Lady Vols win SEC tourney title

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Traditionally the Lady Vols are one of the nation's top women's basketball programs. With eight national titles and a legendary head coach, Tennessee over the years has became a regular in the final days of tournament play throughout the month of March.

The tradition continued Sunday as the No. 2-seeded Tennessee Lady Vols (24-8, 13-4) defeated rival No. 4 LSU, 70-58.

"It's just an awesome feeling. I'm so happy for these young ladies and our entire team," said Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick.

"About two, three weeks ago we went back to work. We went to work and worked pretty hard. These young ladies bought into what we needed to do. It was a great win for us today."

The game marks the third straight SEC Women's Basketball Tournament championship for Tennessee, the 16th in the program's history.

It also marks the final game in conference play for five Tennessee seniors who each impacted the Lady Vols play over the course of the tournament.

Graduate forward Glory Johnson was voted Most Valuable Player and joined senior Shekinna Stricklen on the All-Tournament team.

Johnson led the Lady Vols, for the second straight night, with a double-double over the Tigers, scoring 20 points while hauling in 11 rebounds. Her final rebound came as the clock ticked off the final seconds sounding victory for the Lady Vols.

"I keep saying, every game, I don't think she can take it to another level, and she keeps taking it to another level," Warlick said. "That's just her nature. She's competitive. I absolutely love that about Glory."

Stricklen hit a jumper in the first half, scoring her first points in the first half in the tournament, en route to a 16-point performance. The forward hit a key 3-point shot with 58 seconds on the clock to put the game out of reach for LSU.

"Great players make great plays," Warlick said. "She hit the three. That's what they do. Glory comes up with big rebounds. That's what we have to at the end. It's through their leadership that we keep getting better and better."

Joining Stricklen and Johnson in double figures was fellow graduate forward Vicki Baugh. Baugh recorded 8 points in the first half, helping her team to a 35-30 halftime lead. She finished the evening with 10 points and 7 rebounds.

"Glory Johnson, Vicki Baugh, that Shekinna are all great players," said LSU forward Courtney Jones. "That's just their game and you have to match their intensity."

The victory is regarded as a special one for the team as the season draws to an end. The year has brought many challenges to the program, and for the players, it was worth it to see Pat Summitt cut down the nets again.

"It's one thing doing it for ourselves, our families, our fans, for God," Johnson said. "But Pat has been through so much. We want to let her know we're willing to work for her, to go to bat for her.

"To see her cut that down is amazing. That's what we've been working for. She deserves it."

Following the game, during the presentation of the trophy to the team, more praise was aimed at Summitt. SEC Commissioner Mike Slive commended the coach in front of the 12,441 record breaking crowd.

"On behalf of everyone in the SEC, on behalf of everyone in women's college basketball everywhere, we want to tribute you. You are the finest coach in college basketball history."

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