Brown leads Catawba women past Tusculum

Published 8:25 pm Saturday, December 9, 2017

By David Shaw

SALISBURY — Not every team in the South Atlantic Conference has a player like Catawba’s Serena Brown. They just wish they did.

Brown’s ginsu-sharp shooting proved contagious and her fearless rebounding proved pivotal as the Lady Indians rolled to a 70-58 conference victory Saturday against visiting Tusculum. Not bad for a 5-foot-4 senior who has carved her niche as a locked-in point guard.

“Coach has been talking about me switching to the two-spot, to try to bring more offense,” Brown said with a post-game grin. “It didn’t matter. Whatever job they gave me, I wanted to show them I could do it.”

She did it with flair, as Catawba (4-4, 2-1 SAC) finished off finals week with an A-plus performance and won for the third time in its last four games. Brown shot 7-for-12 from the field, drained three 3-pointers and scored a team-high 17 points. She added 13 rebounds and four assists.

“To be honest, she has our best shooting percentage,” winning coach Angie Morton said. “That’s why I wanted her at the 2-guard. The thing is we still need her ball-handling skills so she goes back-and-forth. But she’s really worked on her game, stayed over the summer and has become a better scorer.”

That was evident from the start. Brown scored seven points in the opening six minutes as Catawba built a 13-7 lead. Teammate Terri Rogers added a short, baseline set shot and a pair of dribble-drive layups as the Indians shot 11-for-13 and opened a nine-point first-quarter advantage. “We had a game plan and stuck to it,” teammate Madison Hallman said after contributing 11 points and five assists.

It was Hallman’s 3-pointer from the right side that gave Catawba a 42-29 halftime lead. Late in the game she threaded a perfect pass underneath to freshman Taisha DeShazo, whose layup squelched a Tusculum comeback try.

“Maddie was a presence,” Morton said. “She gave us another ball-handler who wasn’t going to get trapped. A heady player who hit some big shots today.”

Catawba made 52.9 percent of its field goal attempts — a considerable improvement over its first seven games — and out-rebounded the Pioneers, 42-26.

“You’ve got to make shots when you come play Catawba,” coach Devin Carter said after Tusculum (7-2, 2-1) went 21-for-62 from the floor (33.9 percent) and had its three-game winning streak snapped. “We didn’t knock anything down early. And even later, when we were down seven and had the ball — with a chance to cut it to four — we missed a layup.”

The guests received 18 points apiece from six-foot junior Kasey Johnson and junior guard Sydney Wilson. Their defense forced 25 Catawba turnovers, which kept the Indians from cracking the game open. Catawba’s widest margin was 45-29 following Brown’s 3-pointer from the left side early in the second half.

“I think we were just excited to get on our home floor,” Brown said. “We’ve been on the road so much. We just had to stay in the gym, focus on the game and play as a team. Our energy was there. It never wavered.”

Neither did Brown’s game. She spent most of the second half quarterbacking the offense and grappling for rebounds. “I just snuck in there now and then and grabbed as many rebounds as I could,” she said.

None of it was missed by Carter, TC’s third-year coach.

“Serena Brown was an absolute warrior,” he said. “She might be the most valuable player in our league right now — such a difference-maker. Everyone would like a Serena Brown.”

NOTES: Rogers, who was frequently double-teamed, finished with 13 points and eight rebounds. … Morton was clearly impressed with DeShazo, a 5-9 forward who shot 6-for-13 from the field and netted 13 points. Her 3-ball from from the left corner put the Indians ahead 31-23 midway through the second quarter. “She’s got a chance to be really, really good,” the coach said. … It was a smooth ride for Catawba, which trailed for only 15 seconds in the game’s early stages. … The Indians host Johnson C. Smith in a non-league game on Monday at 6 p.m.

TUSCULUM (58) — Wilson 18, Johnson 18, Long 8, Patton 4, Sutton 4, Patterson 2, Arnwine 2, Dalkiran 2, Cupidan, Locklear.

CATAWBA (70) — Brown 17, Rogers 13, DeShazo 13, Hallman 11, Butler 8, Barnes 4, Stanbeck 2, Franklin 2, Newbold.

Tusculum         14    15    13    16 — 58

Catawba           23    19     9    19 — 70