Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 24, 2013

SALISBURY — Catawba’s Antoinette McPhail is 6-foot-3, so when she takes a charge, it’s almost like watching a tree tumble after it’s been felled by an axe.
McPhail stood her ground twice for critical charges in Catawba’s 70-63 SAC win against Mars Hill on Saturday at Goodman Gym, and she didn’t care what it looked like, as long as the results were positive.
Sometimes the stat sheet lies. Mars Hill’s women shot 67 percent in the second half— yet it was Catawba’s McPhail-anchored defense that proved decisive.
Mars Hill (1-3, 0-2) cut an 18-point deficit down to 64-56 with 4:21 remaining, but at that point, Catawba’s halfcourt defense dug in and dug a little deeper.
“We really sat down in our halfcourt defense and tried to deny the options in their triangle offense,” Catawba coach Angie Morton said. “We couldn’t do it every single time, but most of the time we were able to deny the wings and the high post.”
In a four-minute span in which it still had an opportunity to pull the game out, Mars Hill had seven offensive possessions. Those possessions went turnover-turnover-turnover-turnover-turnover-turnover-turnover.
Catawba (3-1, 2-0) wasn’t doing a lot offensively, but those seven straight Mars Hill turnovers, which included the charges McPhail took at the 2:30 and 1:18 marks, saved the day for the Indians.
“Antionette didn’t play well on Wednesday (Catawba still won at Wingate), but she came in today with her mind set on defense and rebounding,” Morton said.
While Catawba’s offense sputtered during that defense-dominated stretch, it did manage one bucket. After a timeout, Emma Ucinski got the ball low to McPhail, an McPhail finished.
Catawba stayed on 64 a painfully long time, but it was 67-56 when the Lions finally broke their scoring drought on a layup by Genice Lane with 21 seconds left.
Catawba shot 39.1 percent, and the Lions had a small edge on the backboards, but 31 turnovers did the Lions in.
Catawba had 15 turnovers.
Ucinski and Chloe Bully scored 14 points apiece.
McPhail had 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists, including a beauty on a pressbreak.
Ansley Ricker scored 21 for the Lions.
“We got a big road win Wednesday, but it wouldn’t have mattered much if we hadn’t won today at home against a scrappy team,” Morton said. “We’re playing a lot of sophomores, so we’ll take 2-0 in the league.”

MARS HILL (63) — Ricker 21, Hayes 12, Espinosa 12, Lane 9, Ward 5, Stevens 2, Baker 2.
CATAWBA (70) — Bully 14, Ucinski 14, McPhail 11, Greer 8, Brown 7, Dixon 5, Ciric 5, Clay 4, Whitby 2, Tamauskaite.
Mars Hill 28 35 — 63
Catawba 39 31 — 70