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No.20 Alabama 74, No.12 Florida 61

March 1, 1998

COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) _ Dominique Canty scored 21 of her 24 points in the second half Saturday as No. 20 Alabama upset No. 12 Florida 74-61 in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament.

The Crimson Tide (22-8) will go for its first SEC tournament title Sunday against top-ranked Tennessee. Alabama is the only team to lose to the undefeated Volunteers by fewer than 10 points this season.

Florida (21-8) got 23 points and nine rebounds from Murriel Page, but the Tide almost completely shut her down in the second half. Page, the SEC’s fourth-leading scorer and leading rebounder, had just six points and four rebounds over the final 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, Canty set aside a three-point first half to help Alabama pull away for its eighth win in nine games. At one point, the senior forward scored 15 straight points for Alabama, helping the Tide turn a 31-31 halftime tie into a 48-45 lead with 13:02 left.

Still, neither team led by more than six until the 8:01 mark, when Tausha Mills hit a short jumper to put Alabama ahead 58-50.

Florida scored the next two baskets to pull within four, but managed only one free throw over the next five minutes.

During that period, Leah Goss hit a 3-pointer and a 14-footer to put the Tide up 64-55. Page scored her second basket of the second half at the 1:41 mark to trim the deficit to seven.

But Alabama sank 10 of 12 free throws down the stretch and Florida’s hopes were dashed when Tombi Bell intentionally fouled Canty with 45 seconds left. She hit both her free throws, then Goss hit two more moments later to put Alabama ahead 72-61.

Goss finished with 14 points and point guard Brittney Ezell had nine points and seven assists.

Tonya Washington finished with 18 points, including 11 in the second half, to keep the Gators close.