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College women’s basketball: Catawba wins fourth in a row

SALISBURY — Catawba’s 2013-14 women’s basketball season ended with an 82-68 loss at Carson-Newman’s Holt Fieldhouse in the first round of the SAC tournament. It’s a memory that Catawba coach Angie Morton doesn’t enjoy.

The focus for the Indians is to earn a first-round home game in this season’s tournament with a top-four finish in the 12-team league. Morton’s team is driving for that.  Catawba is tied for third with Newberry after beating Tusculum 89-79 at Goodman Gym on Saturday in a racehorse game.

The Indians (13-8, 10-6 SAC) — who took care of Lenoir-Rhyne, Carson-Newman and Queens in their previous three outings — have won four in a row for the first time since February 2013.

“It had been a long time since we’d won four straight,” Morton said. “But we’ve got the most athletic team we’ve had since my first season here. Athleticism is our main asset.”

Tusculum (5-14, 5-11) is an offensive-minded team and pushed a frantic pace with five double-figure scorers led by Shynese Whitener’s 23. Catawba didn’t have much trouble answering, putting up 20 more points than it averages.

Guard Bri Johnson and post Terri Rogers scored 24 points apiece, while versatile Zhaquondalee Greer jumped off the bench to add 20.

“That’s not normal for us — three girls with 20 or more,” Morton said. “But Tusculum can really score. We just had to outscore them,”

Johnson made the key plays.

Catawba’s 17-point lead in the first half melted to 10 by halftime, and it was only a seven-point game with four minutes left when Johnson assisted on a layup by Greer and then buried a clutch 3-pointer to boost the lead to 83-71.

“She’s made those big shots all season,” Morton said.

Catawba had a huge edge on the boards with Johnson and Jada Huntley pulling down nine apiece.

Rogers is a freshman, while Johnson and Huntley are sophomores. The Indians have only one senior and have a chance to be contenders for a long time.

Tusculum (79): Whitener 23, Story 14, Cutshaw 13, McMillion 12, Burleson 10, Hairston 5, Atwell 2, Mitchell.

Catawba (89): Rogers 24, Johnson 24, Greer 20, Huntley 11, Bully 5, S. Brown 3, Newbold 2, Franklin, Hodges, Tamasauskaite, Dixon, Ucinski, Richardson, K. Brown.

Tusculum       35  44  —  79

Catawba         45  44   —89

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