27-3, 14-1 Conf

Parker carries Lady Vols to SEC championship

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- This time, the rookie came out on top.

Freshman Candace Parker made a driving one-hander from the left side of the lane with 17 seconds left, and Tennessee (No. 9 ESPN/USA Today, No. 8 AP) held on to beat No. 3 LSU 63-62 in the Southeastern Conference tournament championship when Seimone Augustus' attempt went long.

"It wasn't open into the basket," said Augustus, the two-time SEC player of the year. "I didn't want to take a chance at drawing a foul, losing the ball, whatever the case may have been, so I stopped and shot the jumper."

When it was finally over, the Lady Vols (28-4) spilled onto the court while the predominantly pro-Tennessee crowd roared. Guard Shanna Zolman and center Tye'sha Fluker danced over to lead the band in "Rocky Top."

The Lady Vols won their 12th SEC tournament and second in a row. They beat a top-seeded LSU team in the finals last year, too, 67-65.

"Obviously, this was a tough battle for both teams," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. "A great basketball game I'm sure to watch, a challenging one to play in and coach."

Last month, LSU became the first SEC team to win at Tennessee in nearly 10 years, edging the Lady Vols 72-69. Augustus scored 32 points in that game. She had 24 Sunday, but it wasn't enough.

The Lady Tigers (27-3) led 62-58 with less than a minute remaining, but Zolman's 3-pointer with 35.5 seconds to play cut Tennessee's deficit to one. Erica White missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 33 seconds left, giving the Lady Vols a chance to take the lead. Tennessee chose not to call time out or hold for the last shot.

"In most of my coaching years, I've called time out. But I've found it very difficult at times to get the ball back inbounds," Summitt said. "You just have to trust your team. I think I've changed my philosophy in probably the last three years."

The 6-foot-4 Parker, the SEC freshman of the year, had the ball near the top of the key, then drove to the left against Scholanda Hoston, who is 6 inches shorter.

"It was just one on one with me and her," Parker said. "I knew I had the height advantage over her. I just took it and shot over her. Fortunately, it went in."

Sidney Spencer scored 21 points and Parker, the tournament's most valuable player, finished with 20 for the Lady Vols. Zolman added 14.

Tennessee and LSU met in the SEC title game for the third time in four years -- LSU won in 2003 in North Little Rock.

Augustus, also the reigning national player of the year, reached double figures for the 127th time in her career, tying the record set by Missouri State's Jackie Stiles and Duke's Alana Beard. Sylvia Fowles added 16 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks for LSU.

Fowles hurt an ankle in the second half of LSU's 79-52 semifinal win over Kentucky, but she looked fine at the start against Tennessee. She made her first four shots and had 12 points, six rebounds and six blocks in the first half.

But Tennessee went on an 11-0 run late in the half and led 36-33 at the break. Spencer made all four of her 3-point attempts before the break. Fowles and Augustus combined to score LSU's first 16 points but went scoreless for the last 8:12 before halftime.

"We don't want to be good. I want to make that next step to being great," LSU coach Pokey Chatman said. "We'll work on that and we'll be a better basketball team."

LSU led 55-48 with 8:23 remaining, but Tennessee called time and went on a 10-0 run capped by Zolman's 3-pointer. Tennessee went 10-of-19 from 3-point range -- Spencer made five and Zolman four.

"When you give up 10 3-pointers in this environment this late in the year, it's going to be a struggle," Chatman said.

The Lady Vols haven't been their dominant selves this season, finishing second in the SEC at 11-3. It was their first regular season with more than one SEC loss since 1997.

But Tennessee improved to 12-5 in SEC title games, and now Summitt is talking about a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

"I think this team deserves a No. 1," Summitt said. "Now, whether we're going to get it or not, that's up to the committee."