The fifth-seeded Lady Eagles won 61-52 and will vie for the championship today against third-seeded Union. The teams split the regular-season series, with each winning on the road.
The winner will gain an automatic berth into the NAIA Division II national tournament.
Reinhardt (18-14) never trailed Milligan (23-9), and only saw the score tied once. The Lady Eagles out-rebounded Milligan 43-34 and had 18 assists on 21 made baskets.
Milligan had beaten Reinhardt on both occasions in the regular season, by an average of 15.5 points.
“Being the No. 5 seed and winning the first round, our team was really excited about playing the top seed,” said first-year Reinhardt coach Lindsey Huffman, a former standout player at Etowah High School. “We had nothing to lose, and the girls played with all their heart and everything they had in them. They wanted to knock (Milligan) off and get to the championship game, and they sure showed it (Friday).”
The Lady Eagles got out to an ideal start, holding Milligan scoreless over the first 3:44 to take an early 8-0 lead and force the Buffaloes into a timeout. But off the timeout, Milligan scored the next eight points to tie the score.
Consecutive 3-pointers by Hay gave Reinhardt a six-point edge off a timeout of its own, and after a Milligan bucket, Hannah Mayo connected from long range to stretch the lead to 17-10.
Reinhardt led 29-21 when Hay connected on a 3-pointer to give the Lady Eagles a double-digit lead, 32-21, with 4:30 left in the opening half. The Lady Eagles didn’t score for the rest of the half, but Milligan only mustered four more points, giving Reinhardt a 32-25 lead at the break.
Milligan opened the second-half by scoring the first five points. Reinhardt didn’t score for the first 4:09 of the half, but a bucket by Aiken got the Lady Eagles’ advantage back to four, 34-30. The teams swapped points, with Reinhardt stretching the advantage to six, 38-32, after a bucket by Aiken, a Woodstock product.
The Buffaloes trimmed the lead to 42-39, but another Lockhart bucket gave the Lady Eagles the lead again by five. Milligan again cut the lead to two, but a transition bucket by Aiken got the Lady Eagles a two-possession lead again, and after a pair of Hay free throws, the Lady Eagles led 51-45 with 6:03 left.
With Reinhardt up four, 56-52, Milligan forced Reinhardt to make free throws in the waning seconds. April Besley was up to the task, making four free throws down the stretch. After Hay made a free throw with 8.2 seconds to go, the game was out of reach.
Co-AAC Player of the Year Johneshia Good was held to just 11 points for Milligan on 3-of-11 shooting from the field. Jaimee Hill had a double-double with 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Allison Jones came off the bench to score 10 points.
Still, Reinhardt held Milligan to 19-of-55 shooting (34.5 percent) from the field
“Our goal in pregame was to make them as uncomfortable as possible,” Huffman said. “If Milligan was going to score, they were going to have to make tough shots because they are a super-talented team. We were able to at least make them attempt difficult shots, and we were able to rebound the basketball well. Once we did that, we were able to execute offensively.”