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Champions...Toledo Captures WNIT Crown with 76-68 Victory Over USC

Courtesy: Toledo Athletics
Release: 04/02/2011
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Courtesy: Associated Press
Naama Shafir and Jessica Williams hug following Toledo's 76-68 victory against USC in the WNIT Championship Game on Saturday.

TOLEDO, OH (AP) - After all junior Naama Shafir had done Saturday, she still had to walk home.

Toledo's first-team all-conference guard was smiling every step of the way after delivering the first postseason championship in school history by scoring a career-high 40 points in the Rockets' 76-68 victory over USC in the WNIT championship.

Her final six points - all from the free-throw line in the final 25 seconds - clinched the victory for Toledo (29-8) and earned her MVP honors.

"She was unstoppable,'' Toledo Head Coach Tricia Cullop said of her star guard. "She had that will and desire that she wasn't going to let this go the other way.''

Shafir, an Orthodox Jew, had to obtain permission from her rabbi to play on Saturdays after she arrived at Toledo from Israel.

Her faith also keeps her from doing certain things from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, including using motorized vehicles, and so she walked to Savage Arena on Saturday and walked home after the victory.

Shafir scored 23 points in the second half, including nine straight during a 12-0 run that gave the Rockets a 57-47 lead. The Trojans (24-13) got within 70-66 in the final minute, but Shafir put the game out of reach with her string of free throws.

Cassie Harberts led USC with 14 points. The Trojans were looking to capture their first postseason title since winning an NCAA championship in 1984. USC played five of its six tournament games on the road, traveling to Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Illinois and Ohio during its run to the title game.

"
It's difficult fighting on the road,'' USC Head Coach Michael Cooper said. "I always tell our team championships are won on the road, but it's always a tough fight. We fought as hard as we could.''

Toledo's school-record crowd of 7,301 may have been the difference. The Rockets' ended the season on an 18-game home winning streak, including all six of their victories in the WNIT.

Toledo capped its historic championship run behind Shafir, who was one of three Rockets to reach double figures. Senior Melissa Goodall scored 12 points and junior Haylie Linn had 10 points.

With Shafir unable to speak to reporters before sundown, her teammates did the talking.

"
She is a special player and you can't doubt that for one minute,'' Goodall said. "She has been the little engine that could and she's been our heartbeat all the way from the start of the season all the way until now.

"She has really carried us when we needed her to most.''

WNIT All-Tournament Team
Naama Shafir, Toledo (MVP)
Yolanda Richardson, Toledo
Briana Gilbreath, USC
Ashley Corral, USC
Shannon McCallum, Charlotte
Emily Hanley, Illinois State

To be eligible for the all-tournament team, the players had to be on a team that advanced to the 'Final Four' of the WNIT.

Past WNIT Champions
2011-Toledo
2010-California
2009-South Florida
2008-Marquette
2007-Wyoming
2006-Kansas State
2005-Southwest Missouri State
2004-Creighton
2003-Auburn
2002-Oregon
2001-Ohio State
2000-Wisconsin
1999-Arkansas
1998-Penn State

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