BOONE, N.C. -- Darcie Vincent met a number of skeptics two years ago when she left the powerhouse she built at California (Pa.) for Appalachian State.
"They asked, 'Why would you leave such a great program? Why would you do that when you're winning 30 games a season?'" said Vincent, who won the Division II national title in 2004. "Well, that got kind of complacent."
Fast forward to Sunday afternoon, when a smiling Vincent celebrated the Mountaineers' comeback from a 19-point deficit to beat Memphis 79-71 to win the first Women's Basketball Invitational.
"Now the fun is back in me," Vincent said. "You get excited when you wake up. You get excited when you go to bed at night."
Tournament MVP Ashlen Dewart had 21 points and nine rebounds on her 19th birthday, Chakeitha Weldon added 15 points, and Anna Freeman had 13 points, nine rebounds and eight assists as Appalachian State (23-12) completed a dramatic turnaround after going 9-22 a year ago in Vincent's debut season.
Capturing a new tournament that many didn't know existed a month ago didn't bother a team of mostly freshmen and sophomores, who cut down the nets and drenched their energetic coach with water.
"It's been a heck of a run," Vincent said.
It required finding a way to finally slow Brittany Carter. The Georgia transfer scored 31 points in 27 minutes, but was in foul trouble for much of the second half. Ramses Lonlack added 16 points for Memphis (23-12) in a matchup of the top seeds in the 16-team tournament.
Halfway through the first half, Carter had outscored Appalachian State 14-13 and Memphis built a 36-17 lead.
"We were playing very scared," Vincent said.
She switched to a matchup zone and focused multiple defenders on Carter, who scored 49 points in a game earlier this season. The trapping defense fueled the comeback.
"There was just a little more pressure than usual," said Carter, who hit 9 of 16 shots and 10 of 13 free throws despite a cut above her eye that will require stitches. "Their zone was pretty wide and for a while they had a box-and-one, a little double team."
The Mountaineers used a 14-0 run bridging halftime to take their first lead. Dewart then hit a 3-pointer, had a three-point play and a layup in the decisive 16-1 spurt that put the Mountaineers ahead 68-57 with 5:26 left.
Appalachian State forced 23 turnovers in its eighth straight home win.
"They turned the tide with their pressure because they stayed with it and they were stubborn about doing what they do," Memphis coach Melissa McFerrin said.
Dewart, one of four freshman who played key roles, called it "the best birthday I've ever had." Her coach declared it the end of her second-favorite season.
"It's hard to ever replace a national championship," Vincent said, "but this season will always touch home."