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Farmingdale State women win conference title

History indicated that Farmingdale State would meet Mount St. Mary for the Skyline Conference championship for the seventh straight year. It also suggested that Mount St. Mary, which spoiled the Rams' bid for a perfect regular season by defeating them last week, would prevail for the seventh consecutive time when the teams met on Long Island Sunday.

Farmingdale State trailed by as many as nine points in the first half and 11 points in the second, and guard Kimberley Blakney, who was in her fourth title game against the same opponent, delivered a message:

"We got in the huddle and I said, 'They can't be hungrier than us. We got to be hungry, thirsty and want a snack. We can't let them do it again.' "

And the Rams didn't. They trailed until the final two minutes but rallied to win, 67-58, and end Mount St. Mary's 10-year reign as Skyline champion.

Farmingdale State (25-1) gained an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament. Its opponent will be announced Monday. Mount St. Mary (22-5) has to hope for an at-large berth.

"It feels great. It's the best feeling in the world," junior guard Janel Monah said.

Blakney, named the tournament's most valuable player, led all scorers with 16 points. She added seven rebounds, four blocked shots and three steals.

Monah played a significant role in the victory, which was achieved with a strong defensive effort in the second half against a taller opponent. Mount St. Mary dominated the boards 47-38 but could not hit key shots as Farmingdale State sliced its way to the basket and won the game from the free-throw line, converting 23 of 34 foul shots.

Down 53-47 with 6:50 to play, Farmingdale State went on an 11-4 run to take its first lead at 58-57 with 1:55 remaining.

Blakney's free throw made it 59-57, and with 48 seconds left, Monah dribbled the ball about 20 feet from the basket. With the shot clock down to three seconds, she hoisted a shot that banked off the backboard and through for a 61-57 advantage.

"Huge!" Farmingdale State coach Chris Mooney said.

The Farmingdale State players erupted on the court, starting with Monah, who said of her only field goal: "It was crazy. I looked up and saw time was running down and I just threw it in."

Blakney added, "I was hopping down the court. It was just like a relief. I automatically said, 'We got this.' "

Kamaya Miller had 11 points, 11 rebounds and four steals. Juanita Chappel had 11 points and 4-6 senior Tiffara Steward, who drew national attention with her story of perseverance in overcoming several health challenges, had 10 points.

Now Steward, the smallest basketball player in NCAA history, is in the NCAA Tournament.

"It feels amazing," she said. "There are no words to describe it."

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