February 24, 2015
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Virginia Union survived the final minutes without leading scorer Ashle Freeman to pull out a CIAA Tournament victory.
Freeman scored a game-high 25 points before fouling out but her teammates held off Saint Augustine’s 74-71 in a women’s first-round basketball contest at Time Warner Cable Arena on Tuesday, February 24. The Lady Panthers (9-17 overall), the No. 5 Northern Division seed, advanced to Wednesday’s quarterfinals where they will face The Lincoln, the Northern Division co-champion, at 2:20 p.m.
Freeman played a tremendous game but picked up her fifth foul with the Lady Panthers ahead 65-59 with just under six minutes left. Her departure from the contest sparked the Lady Falcons, who rallied to take their first lead of the game at 71-70 on a Jeanne-Marie Wilson layup with 54 seconds remaining.
Several Lady Panthers stepped up at crunch time. ShaHadah Barrett hit a free throw to tie the score and Trylanda Jennings made one of two free throws after drawing a foul in the paint. She missed the second free throw but Taylor White grabbed a key rebound and was fouled. White hit two free throws for a 74-71 lead with eight seconds left.
But the contest was not over yet. Wilson picked up a loose ball and fired a potential game-tying three-pointer which appeared on target. The shot missed and time expired as the Lady Falcons got the rebound.
“This team has resolve,” Lady Panthers’ Head Coach Barvenia Wooten-Cherry said. “It helps that we are close as a unit. We depend on each other.”
Lady Walker added 22 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks, and Sydney Howard scored 10 points for the Lady Panthers, who defeated the Lady Falcons in all three meetings this season. Regime McCombs pumped in 20 points, Wilson added 17 points and Terri Jacobs scored 12 points for the Lady Falcons, the No. 4 Southern Division seed who finished the season at 12-14 overall.
The Lady Falcons, who trailed 40-28 at halftime, rallied behind Jacobs, a forward who scored all her points in the second half after being held scoreless in the first half. They climbed back in the game and were in position to close out with a victory, but the Lady Panthers survived with a group effort.
The Lady Panthers, behind 16 points from Freeman and 14 from Walker, had their way with the Lady Falcons in the first half after bursting out to a 6-0 lead. The margin steadily grew to double digits, and it appeared the contest would be a rout.
“We didn’t come out with the intensity that Virginia Union came out with,” Lady Falcons’ Head Coach Rachel Bullard said. “We couldn’t get in sync. We played with heart in the second half but dug ourselves a hole in the first half.”
The Lady Falcons, led by the trio of Jacobs, McCombs and Wilson, made a game of it before the Lady Panthers stayed strong down the stretch without Freeman, their career scoring leader.
“We had to relax and take our time [in the closing minutes] because we knew what was at stake,” Howard said.