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Women’s Basketball: Tough task for Catawba

While Catawba’s women’s basketball team didn’t know it would be in the Division II national tournament until pairings were announced Sunday, Limestone wrapped up a berth long ago.

Eighth-seeded Catawba was the fourth-best team in the South Atlantic Conference, while Conference Carolinas kingpin Limestone is the second-ranked team in the country. The teams’ Friday matchup at 5 p.m. on top-seeded Limestone’s home floor in the first round of the Southeast Regional appears to be a mismatch, but appearance can be deceiving.

Catawba is a modest 18-11, but it was 5-5 when Jada Huntley became eligible Jan. 3. The Indians are 13-6 since.

Four losses were to Anderson (twice), Wingate and Newberry. All three SAC teams join Catawba in the regional at Limestone’s Timken Center in Gaffney, S.C.

Catawba played its best basketball late in the season. Before losing to SAC regular-season champion Anderson in a conference tournament semifinal, Catawba had won three straight by 20-plus points. One of those late-season romps by the Indians came against Carson-Newman. Carson-Newman is in the regional as the No. 7 seed, giving the SAC five of the eight regional berths.

Limestone (30-1) is the only CC team in the regional field.

Limestone’s lone loss was to Newberry — a SAC team that beat Catawba twice in close games.

Catawba is 3-0 against Conference Carolinas teams.

Huntley averages 14.8 points and 9.4 rebounds. Other standouts are clutch shooter Bri Johnson and SAC Freshman of the Year Terri Rogers. Chloe Bully leads the Indians in assists.

Limestone has exceptional players in defensive wizard Alicia Brookins, shooter Jasmine Kearse and rebounder Celestra Warren. All three were first team All-Conference Carolinas.

Catawba is 0-4 in previous regional appearances, the most-recent coming in 2012.

Four games will be played on Friday, with semifinals Saturday. The regional championship game will be played Monday, with the winner advancing to the Elite Eight in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Friday’s schedule:

12 p.m. – No. 6 Newberry vs. No. 3 Anderson

2:30 p.m. – No. 7 Carson-Newman vs. No. 2 Columbus State

5 p.m. – No. 8 Catawba vs. No. 1 Limestone

7:30 p.m. – No. 5 Wingate vs. No. 4 Lander

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