COSTA MESA — No matter how anyone tried to analyze it, there was really only one thing that mattered about Southern California College's 80-69 victory over Concordia in the Golden State Athletic Conference tournament final at SCC Wednesday.
And SCC's fans started chanting it with 45 seconds remaining: "Ten-nes-see, Ten-nes-see . . . "
With the victory, the SCC women's basketball team earned its first trip to the NAIA National Championships, which begins next Wednesday in Jackson, Tenn.
Concordia (24-9) won't be going to Tennessee because SCC (29-5) made seven of 15 three-pointers and shot 60% (27 of 45) from the field to win its 17th home game without a loss this season.
"I never thought we'd get [to the NAIA tournament]," said SCC senior Amber Chaney, one of the team's tri-captains. "I've never played in a championship game before, much less won one. There's no better way to go out."
Fellow senior, co-captain center Elaine Whittemore, also played her final game at SCC and went out in style. She finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and seven steals, and also made seven of nine shots from the field.
Whittemore, the conference's player of the year, also became SCC's all-time leading scorer, surpassing Kristen Bevis' career record of 1,208 points set in 1992. Whittemore has 1,225 points.
But Whittemore wasn't the only reason SCC advanced to the NAIA tournament.
Senior co-captain Gina Jojola (13 points, seven rebounds) and Alana Kempton (15 points) helped SCC to a fast start, as the Vanguards made seven of their first nine shots to take the lead, 19-5, in the first six minutes.
But Concordia rallied behind Angela Good (15 points), and pulled within 56-55 on Kristin Weddick's three-point play. Then SCC Coach Russ Davis challenged his team during a time out.
"I told them, 'Who's the conference champ?" Davis said. " 'You are, so just get your chins off your chest and go play ball.' "
SCC answered with a 17-7 run in the next six minutes with Kristi Wright scoring six of her 16 points and Amee Pina (11 points, nine assists) scoring five points to key the burst that put it away.
Concordia made it close by rebounding from a poor first half, in which it shot 35% (nine for 26) from the field and committed 11 turnovers.
Although all-conference center Heather Carll (18 points, seven rebounds) was hampered by foul trouble, the Eagles shot 60% (15 for 25) from the field in the second half and actually made their big run with Carll on the bench.
"I think we relaxed when Heather went out," Davis said, "because she's a great player. But we responded when they made the run, that's what champions do."