Green powers Ball State past Bowling Green, into NCAAs

CLEVELAND -- As soon as they heard the first notes of Beyonce's hit, "Single Ladies" boom from the arena's sound system, Ball State's players knew what to do.

Wearing new T-shirts and caps that said "MAC champions," the Cardinals lined up and began to dance just like the pop star does on her video.

For Ball State, the dancing has just begun.

Porchia Green scored on two driving layups in the final 26 seconds as Ball State won its first Mid-American Conference title and the school's first trip to the NCAA tournament with a 55-51 victory over MAC power and top-seeded Bowling Green on Sunday.

"It's overwhelming," Green said. "It's exciting. It's already hit me, and I feel great."

With the scored tied 51-all, Green blasted down the lane and dropped a scoop shot to give the Cardinals (25-8) a two-point lead with 26.2 seconds left. Then, after a Bowling Green turnover, Audrey McDonald alertly threw a long pass to Green and the senior guard streaked down the floor for another basket, helping Ball State shock the MAC's best team.

Emily Maggert then picked off Bowling Green's inbounds pass near midcourt, securing Ball State's 11th straight win and the MAC's automatic NCAA bid.

Following the trophy presentation, the Cardinals, who were encouraged by first-year coach Kelly Packard to mimic Beyonce's moves to get them warmed up before games, got to try them out again.

"Coach P. had us do this to start pumping us up," said Maggert, who scored 14. "We decided when we won we would do it again. So we won, and we danced."

Niki McCoy scored 15 points and Tracy Pontius 14 for Bowling Green (28-4), which lost for just the second time in 11 title game appearances.

Bowling Green guard Lauren Prochaska, the MAC's player of the year, made just 3-of-16 shots and the Falcons shot just 28 percent -- 22 in the second half -- from the floor.

"It's a heartbreaking loss," Bowling Green coach Curt Miller said. "I feel so bad for our kids. That's the beauty of MAC basketball. You can do everything right for three months and dominate the league, but if you don't win the tournament, it doesn't matter."

Ranked in the AP's Top 25 before their 25-game winning streak was snapped earlier this month, the Falcons couldn't buy a basket in the first 10 minutes after halftime. They missed 3-pointers, layups and short jumpers in a 1-for-15 dry spell that allowed the Cardinals to open a 38-33 lead.

But Pontius, who tied a school record with eight 3-pointers in a semifinal win over Toledo, made another 3, and after a Ball State miss, BG's point guard fed the ball inside to center Chelsea Albert, who converted a three-point play to put the Falcons ahead 39-38 with 7:45 left.

Maggert's bucket put Ball State up 48-46 with 2:21 to go, but McCoy made a three-point play and two free throws to give the Falcons a 51-48 lead with 1:21 left. Danielle Gratton's 3-pointer from the top of the key tied it for Ball State, and when Bowling Green missed several short shots, Green found a seam in the lane and powered her way to the basket.

After Green's second layup in the closing seconds, Packard and her players knew that they had downed the MAC's most celebrated program.

"It definitely makes it sweeter," Gratton said. "They only had one conference loss. They're a great team. It feels great to beat them."