CLEVELAND – Lauren Prochaska scored 20 points, Tracy Pontius triggered a crucial second-half spurt with two assists and Bowling Green overcame a miserable shooting performance to win another Mid-American Conference championship, 51-46 over Eastern Michigan on Saturday.
The second-seeded Falcons (28-4) won their second straight MAC title, the school's 11th and the league's automatic NCAA tourney bid.
Bowling Green defended its crown despite shooting just 24 percent. The Falcons did it by making their free throws and holding the Eagles (22-12) to 25 percent shooting.
Tavelyn James scored 19 to lead fifth-seeded Eastern Michigan, which was making just its second title game appearance.
The Eagles were the lowest seed to ever make the final and a combination of nerves and tired legs — they had to win three games to make the championship — may have affected their shooting. BG's interior defense also had something to do with it as the Falcons blocked eight shots and altered many more.
Bowling Green was in control leading 49-40 with 2:08 left after a layup by Pontius. But the Eagles kept fighting, scored six straight and forced a tie-up with 32 seconds left. Eastern Michigan got possession but De'Ja Wills missed a 3-pointer with 17 seconds left.
Prochaska, a senior and two-time player of the year, sealed it with two free throws in the final nine seconds. When the horn sounded, she was swarmed by her teammates at half-court and soon the Falcons were cutting down the nets, something they've done many times before.
It was BG's fifth title since 2005.
Prochaska was only 3 of 13 from the floor, but she made 13 of 15 free throws.
Unable to run away from the Eagles, the Falcons finally got a fast-break bucket with 8:47 left. Pontius caught an outlet pass from Chrissy Steffen and she and Prochaska took off. With only one EMU defender back, Pontius passed up a layup opportunity and delivered a gorgeous, behind-the-back bounce pass to Prochaska, who dropped it in to snap a 35-all tie.
Bowling Green got a stop at the other end and Pontius fed Steffen for a big 3-pointer, giving the Falcons a 40-35 lead. Two free throws by Maggie Hennegan capped a 7-0 run — a rare offensive stretch in a game where both teams scrapped for every loose ball.
Hard-nosed defense dominated in a first half when neither team would give an inch. The officials were willing to let the teams be aggressive and it resulted in long scoring droughts and horrid shooting percentages — Bowling Green shot 27 percent. Eastern Michigan was worse at 26.
Bowling Green went scoreless for more than eight minutes as Eastern Michigan's quick guards pestered the Falcons into turnovers and forced shots. The Eagles didn't fare any better on offense, going more than six minutes without scoring a field goal.
If they didn't score in transition, Eastern Michigan was in big trouble. The smaller Eagles had a hard time getting open looks against the Falcons, and even when they found some space, they misfired. EMU was 0 for 8 on 3-point tries in the first half.