Women’s college basketball: Catawba takes a giant step

Published 9:48 pm Monday, March 13, 2023


By Mike London

SALISBURY — Lyrik Thorne and Janiya Downs were adversaries not that long ago.

Thorne led an an exceptional Ledford High team, while Downs led a pretty fair South Rowan squad.  They were both 2,000-point high school scorers, legends at their respective schools, and they had their battles in the Central Carolina Conference.

As Catawba College teammates for four years, Downs and Thorne’s wide range of kills have combined to make the Indians formidable, and that was never more true than on Monday night at Goodman Gym in the Southeast Regional final.

Thorne shot the ball tremendously and scored 33. Downs stuffed the sheet for 20 points and 12 rebounds and five assists.

Together, they led Indians on a rousing comeback in the fourth quarter in front of  817 fans and beat Georgia Southwestern 75-65.

It was a breakthrough victory for head coach Terence McCutcheon and the program. Catawba was in the regional final for the first time. Now the Indians (28-5) head to an Elite Eight game in St. Joseph, Mo., for the first time.

Top-seeded Catawba took a 39-34 lead to the halftime break, but third-seeded Georgia Southwestern controlled the third quarter overwhelmingly, 25-12, and led by 10 points in the early stages of the fourth quarter.

Thorne started Catawba’s charge with two free throws and a 3-pointer to cut the deficit in half.

Then Downs made back-to-back jumpers, the first for 2 and the second one for 3. That tied the game at 61-all.

Thorne made the go-ahead 3 pointer and the Indians were on their way.

Catawba outscored Georgia Southwestern 24-6 in the fourth quarter.

Ava Jones, who had scored 33 for Georgia Southwestern in a semifinal against Wingate, scored 18, but it was on 7-for-19 shooting. Catawba could live with that.

Thorne’s  phenomenal shooting stats were 9-for-15 from the floor, 5-for-9 on 3-pointers and 10-for-11 on free throws.

Catawba shot a solid 47.2 percent and made 10 3-pointers. Georgia Southwestern shot 42.6 percent and made six 3s.

Ga. Southwestern      17      17   25   6   — 65

Catawba                       16    23    12  24   — 75

Grorgia Southwestern —  Jones 18, Langley 14, Levay 9, Williams 8, Chatman 6, Storr 6, Garrett 2, Grant 2.

Catawba — Thorne 33, Downs 20, Porter 6, McIntosh 4, Spry 4, Ford 4, Dubose 3, Wampler 1.