Gold Nuggets edge SUNO, clinch share of GCAC regular-season title

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NEW ORLEANS — Xavier University of Louisiana women’s basketball clinched a share of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference regular-season championship Wednesday with a thrilling 55-54 victory against SUNO at the Convocation Center.

The championship is the 30th all-time at the GCAC or NAIA District 30 level for the Gold Nuggets (22-6, 12-1), who won a regular-season title for the first time since the 2012-13 season. XULA won the GCAC Tournament in 2014 and 2016.

XULA can win the championship outright with a home victory Monday against Philander Smith — tip-off at 5:30 p.m. — or a Talladega loss Tuesday at Edward Waters. XULA will be seeded first or second in the GCAC Tournament March 1-3 at Jacksonville, Fla.

Essence Wells scored a game-high 18 points to lead the Gold Nuggets for the third consecutive game. Jas Hill scored 13. Both players made three 3-pointers, and Maya Trench made two.

SUNO scored 15 consecutive points to open the fourth quarter, including three 3s in the first 80 seconds, to take a 52-48 lead with 6:18 remaining. But XULA scored the next seven points and took the lead for good, 53-52, on two Wells free throws at 2:39.

Bo Browder, in his 20th season, has coached the Gold Nuggets to eight GCAC regular-season championships and eight tournament titles.

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