WINSTON SALEM, NC - Behind a career-high 33 points from Ashley Holmes, UC Santa Cruz rallied late to defeat a tough Finlandia University squad 76-72 in the semifinals of the Great South Athletic Conference tournament.
UCSC improves to 14-11 while the Lions end their season at 3-24.
In a back-and-forth game full of runs, UCSC had to rally many times. They opened the game with a 15-4 run, but Finlandia answered with a 15-1 run of their own and led 19-16 at the end of the first quarter. The Slugs opened the second quarter with an 18-5 run to lead 34-24 and would lead 47-39 at the break.
The third quarter was all Lions as they outscored UCSC 18-6 to head into the fourth leading 57-53. Finlandia ran to their biggest lead at 61-53 with over eight minutes remaining before the Slugs finished with a big performance.
UCSC then scored nine unanswered points to lead by one. The game stayed closed until Holmes hit four consecutive free-throws in the final seconds to ice the game and hold off the Lions in the school's first visit to the Southeast in 12 years.
The Banana Slugs shot 33.8% (25-74) but were 8-15 in the fourth.They hit 85% (17-20) for free throws. Finlandia was 42.9% (27-63) from the field and 90.9%(10-11) from the free-throw line. Holmes was a perfect 5-5 for three-pointers and 10-10 from the line. Madison Van Zandt added 12, with seven rebounds and two blocks. Shoshana Merriman finished with 10 points, hitting all three of her shots in the pivotal last quarter.
Finlandia had four players in double-figures led by Brooke Turin with 19.
UC Santa Cruz faces host and third-seeded Salem College in Sunday's final for a berth in the NCAA Tournament.