The words came haltingly. Tears were choked back, though not completely.

The University of Akron women's basketball team had its season come to an apparent sudden end, and in the most painful of ways, Monday at Rhodes Arena.

A driving layup by Eastern Michigan's Danielle Minott with 2.6 seconds left broke a tie and propelled the Eagles to a 61-59 victory in the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament.

With no timeouts left, the Zips (16-14) could only get a half-court heave from Shayna Harmon that went wide left as time expired.

"This hurts," Zips coach Melissa Jackson said. "Disappointed for our kids, our program. We really wanted this one today, obviously.

"I love this group. They've been amazing all year. Again, not how we wanted to end it on our home floor. They've given me everything they've had. Their fight has been tremendous."

EMU proved to be a tough match-up for the Zips, who lost all three games against the Eagles this season — two of those at home.

A game that looked to be theirs for the taking with six minutes left was snatched away as the Zips went scoreless for a 5:50 stretch, and a 54-46 lead turned into a 57-54 deficit.

The Zips tied it 59-59 on Megan Sefcik's 3-point shot from the right wing with 13.7 seconds remaining. EMU inbounded, working the ball to Minott, and the redshirt senior dribbled all the way and made the game-winner.

"Credit to her," Jackson said. "She made a tough shot. Wish I would have had one more timeout to slow them down."

Jackson is holding out hope the Zips — who were the MAC's eighth seed — might gain a bid to a postseason tournament, other than the NCAA.

But her dream of making it to Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland ended. Instead, ninth-seeded Eastern Michigan (14-16) will challenge top-seeded Central Michigan at noon Wednesday.

Sefcik, a 5-foot-10 redshirt senior, turned in a heroic performance. She led all scorers with 27 points, making 10-of-19 shots (5-of-12 on 3-pointers) and made both free throws.

"Overall, I did pretty well," Sefcik said of her time at Akron. "But there's no career for me if I don't have my teammates and amazing coaching staff."

Jackson responded with praise of her own for Sefcik.

"She laid it all out there tonight," Jackson said. "And I knew she would. She's one of the best players to ever put on an Akron uniform."

Haliegh Reinoehl, a 6-1 junior, contributed 11 points for the Zips and a game-high 12 rebounds.

Sefcik scored 16 in the first half, which ended with the Zips leading 34-24. But they scored just seven in the third quarter. The lead dwindled to 41-40 and became a 42-41 deficit on EMU's Kiara Johnson's putback to start the fourth.

A layup by junior point guard Shaunay Edmonds, who scored nine points, put the Zips ahead followed by back-to-back 3-pointers by Sefcik for a 49-42 lead.

Sefcik's layup off an inbounds play made it 54-46 with 6:09 left. But the Eagles scored the next 11 unanswered.

Minott, who scored all of her team-high 18 points in the second half, completed the run making 1-of-3 free throws after a disputed foul call on Sefcik beyond the arc.

Edmonds' layup trimmed it to 57-56 with 18.5 seconds left. Minott made two free throws to put EMU ahead 59-56, setting up the dramatic finish.

Jackson reflected on the season, whether or not it is officially over yet.

"We lose Megan, but I've got a great group coming back," she said. "And I know they have a bad taste in their mouth right now and they need to remember that for next year.