March 3, 2012
Big Plays by Hicks and Connor Sends Women's Basketball into SAC Final
HICKORY, NC -- Between late game offense by Dana Hicks (York, SC/Gaston Day HS) and defense by Jolysa Connor (Charlotte, NC/E.E. Waddell HS), Catawba collectively pulled out a 60-54 win over Newberry in a South Atlantic Conference Tournament semifinal Saturday night at the Tarlton Complex on the campus of Catawba Valley Community College. With the victory the Lady Indians move to 19-9 overall as Newberry closes at 16-12.
Up 56-54 with the shot-clock ticking down under five seconds, Nisha Long (Dallas, NC/Gaston Day HS) drove to the basket and kicked it out to an open Hicks for a 15-footer that gave Catawba a 58-54 lead with 21 seconds left.
Long patiently let the shot clock wind down as she dribbled near the top of the key before breaking toward the basket at which the Newberry defense collapsed on her leaving Hicks all alone on the right baseline.
Ellie Gleeson missed the Wolves’ counter shot at the other end as Hicks aggressively pursued the rebound, ran out to half court and was promptly fouled. She made both free throws with five seconds on the clock to set the final margin. Hicks, the 2011-12 SAC Player-of-the-Year, completed the game with 14 points and six rebounds.
Connor came up big down the stretch taking two straight charges against the Wolves, the second leading to a Hicks jumper that gave Catawba a 54-52 advantage and the upper hand with 3:55 left. Connor contributed eight points and five rebounds to go with three steals and a great defensive effort.
After the third straight Newberry turnover, Connor made a layup on an assist from Hicks with just under three minutes remaining and the Lady Indians ahead by four.
A three by Emily Perry and a driving shot by Zara Pearson helped the Wolves come back from eight down to take a 52-51 lead at the 5:31 mark.
Out of halftime the Lady Indians had a 38-30 lead within three minutes on a Chloe Bully (Hannut, BELGIUM/Namur HS) three-pointer and a jumper by Connor.
Newberry ran out to an 11-3 lead by the first media timeout of the first half as Catawba was just 1-of-5 from the field. After a traditional three-point play by guard Keisha Henderson, the Wolves stretched the margin to 23-8 with 9:11 remaining.
Fortunes changed in the latter part of the half as Catawba caught fire from the field while switching to a zone defense and put together a 16-2 run to get within one at 25-24 on a three-pointer by Long at the 4:50 mark. The Lady Indians forced Newberry into three turnovers during the run as they converted the mishaps into seven points.
The Wolves finished the half with 10 turnovers as Catawba turned up the defensive pressure with a half-court press. After the dismal start the Lady Indians shot 46% for the half as they held Newberry to 2-for-9 from beyond the arc.
Catawba took its first lead on a Long layup with 3:18 left to sneak ahead 28-27. Taylor May (China Grove, NC/S. Rowan HS) stole a Newberry inbounds pass that was meant for Haylee Lepaio with 3.4 seconds remaining and quickly got a shot off and was fouled. She made both to give the Lady Indians a 33-28 advantage at the break.
Long finished with 14 points and six assists as Bully had 16 and four. Lepaio led all scorers with 17 while pulling down nine rebounds.
The Lady Indians are in the SAC Tournament final for the first time since 2004 against rival Wingate at the Tarlton Complex on Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m.