Women’s basketball: Indians can’t hold lead late

Published 9:26 pm Saturday, March 4, 2017

Staff report

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Catawba’s women’s basketball team led Wingate by 10 points with 6:48 remaining, but the Indians couldn’t close the deal. They scored only two points the rest of the way.

That cold spell proved fatal in a South Atlantic Conference Tournament semifinal played at Furman’s Timmons Arena. Third-seeded Wingate outscored the Indians, 15-2, in the stretch run and rallied to take a 57-54 victory.

While Wingate (24-5) moved on to today’s 1 p.m. championship game against top-seeded Lincoln Memorial, Catawba’s season is over. The seventh-seeded Indians finished 16-13.

“That’s probably not the way we would have drawn it up if we had made the script, but it was good enough to win,” said Wingate coach Ann Hancock. “I’m very pleased that our girls kept on fighting and battling, even though we really looked sluggish. But give (Catawba’s) defense credit that they made it really hard for us to do the things that we normally do.”

Playing tough defense and getting accurate shooting from All-SAC first team performers Bri Johnson and Terri Rogers, Catawba took a 52-42 lead. But in the  sprint to the finish line, the Indians went 0-for-7 from the field and committed five turnovers. Catawba also missed four free throws down the stretch.

Catawba led most of the first quarter and controlled the second and third quarters. But then Wingate had a decisive 13-0 run, taking a 55-52 lead on a jumper by Courtney Robinson with 1:34 left. Rogers finally ended the Indians’ drought with two free throws with 31 seconds remaining, and Catawba was down one.

After Rogers’ free throws,  Johnson stole a pass at midcourt and was fouled, but she missed both foul shots. Wingate went to the line with 11 seconds to go and got a free throw by Shelby Tricoli to lead 56-54.

Catawba’s Serena Brown was called for a travel on a drive to the basket with eight seconds left, and the Bulldogs added another free throw with seven seconds to go. Brown’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer to tie was short.

“It was the third time that we’ve played (Wingate) and we knew it was going to be a tough game,” said Catawba assistant coach Terrence Baxter. “It was a tough loss because we led for so much of the game and it will sting for a while.”

Johnson, a senior, led Catawba with 21 points, going 8-for-12 from the field, in what turned out to be her final game.

“We came in prepared, we knew what they were going to run and how they were going to run it,” said Johnson. “For the most part, we defended really hard. Overall, we fought hard.”

Rogers added 13 points, with Madison Hallman scoring seven off the bench. Brown handed out nine assists and grabbed seven rebounds.

Caroline Averette led Wingate with 14 points. Tricoli and Danasia Witherspoon each had a dozen points. Marta Miscenko pulled down 11 rebounds.

Both teams grabbed 32 rebounds. The Indians had one more turnover. Catawba’s 3-for-14 shooting in the fourth quarter brought down its percentage for the game to 34 percent.

Catawba was 2-for-18 on 3-pointers.

Wingate shot badly early but improved as the game went on and finished at 41 percent.

CATAWBA (54) —Johnson 21, Rogers 13, Hallman 7, Brown 4, Webb 3, Hodges 2, Newbold 2, Butler 2, Franklin.

WINGATE (57) — Averette 14, Witherspoon 12, Tricoli 12, Miscenko 7, Robinson 6, Tomlinson 4, Rumplasch 2, Barrett, Neely.

Catawba                  14   17   15    8    —54

Wingate                   12  16   13   16   —57