ASHEVILLE, NC (WRCB) -- Ashlen Dewart gave Kayla Christopher a big hug, Wes Moore enjoyed an ice-water bath, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team is putting on its dancing shoes once again.
Kayla Christopher's put-back with 8.2 seconds left lifted the Lady Mocs to a thrilling 64-63 win over Davidson in Monday afternoon's Southern Conference Tournament final, sending UTC back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010.
Chattanooga now stands a perfect 14-0 in SoCon title games, including an 9-0 mark under Moore.
"I felt like the last two games, I hadn't helped them much. They just found a way to get it done," said Moore, whose team tied its program record for wins with its 29-3 mark, which now includes a 19-game winning streak. "They did a great job on Kayla, hounding her on defense and making it tough for her to get looks.
"I felt like I wasn't doing a good job of getting her shots, but she found a way to get her own."
It came via the one facet of the game thoroughly dominated by UTC: offensive rebounding. Chattanooga grabbed 21 offensive boards to Davidson's six, and outscored the Wildcats 23-6 in second-chance points.
Christopher's game-winner came on UTC's second offensive rebound in a wild 12-second sequence designed to run through Ashlen Dewart, who had 16 points and 12 rebounds en route to being named the tournament's most outstanding player.
The junior forward missed two contested shots, but Christopher snagged the second for an open follow.
"Coming out of the timeout, I stressed to everyone to crash the boards," Christopher said. "We had 20 seconds on the clock, so we had a chance for more than one shot. Taylor (Hall) and Ashlen did a good job keeping the offensive rebounds long enough to get the second look.
"I was able to sneak in there on the weak side and be at the right place at the right time."
It took a unique second-half charge to get Christopher into that place at that time.
Davidson controlled most of the first half, shooting 65-percent from the floor while building a 32-25 halftime lead. The advantage ballooned to eleven points early in the second half, marking just the fourth game this season in which the Lady Mocs had trailed by double-digits.
They lost the previous three.
"This group has been unbelievable," said Moore, who now stands 31-6 all-time in SoCon Tournament games. "It's been such a fun group to coach. I know they don't believe that most of the time by my demeanor. I love how hard they've worked and how coachable they've been.
"So many times this year, we've had our back to the wall and they've found a way to get it done."
For the third straight game, Hall was the one who came out swinging when UTC was backed into that corner. The junior forward led UTC in the championship game with 19 points, including 17 in the second half, to earn a place alongside Dewart on the all-tournament first team.
Junior point guard Alex Black made the second team.
Davidson's Laura Murray led all scorers with 22 points, but missed a game-winning baseline jumper as time expired. Two-time SoCon Player of the Year Sophia Aleksandraviscius finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Wildcats (21-12), who will play in the WNIT.
"I love these players, and I'm just really happy that they're being rewarded," said Moore. "It's been a grind. For them to go 19-1 in the regular season and then start all over, then be rewarded for what they've done for the last few months is awesome. I'm excited. I think we have a team that can compete in the NCAA tournament and I'm excited about the opportunity after getting through this."
Chattanooga will learn its NCAA Tournament destination and matchup next Monday, March 18, when the brackets are revealed live on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET. It's an experience all but Christopher and fellow senior Kylie Lambert will be enjoying for the first time.
"We just wanted this so bad," said Christopher, who joins Lambert in winning SoCon regular season and tournament titles as a freshman and a senior. "I'm so excited for this team, and happy we were able to share this experience with them so they understand what it feels like and what it takes to get there again next year."
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