JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Sixth-ranked Carson-Newman, the top seed in the Southeast Region, held off a late charge from No. 25 North Georgia, the third-seeded team, to match a program record for wins and advance to the school's first-ever Elite Eight with a 75-71 triumph Monday night in front of the largest crowd for a women's game in Holt Fieldhouse history.
"They are getting exactly what they deserve because of the work they put in," Carson-Newman coach Mike Mincey said. "I have to go back to the crowd. I have never been in an environment like that to where I couldn't hear myself talk to the team at times. It was a great game. We have had to grind all of these games out in tournament play. To see them step out by making free throws and making plays makes me very happy as a coach."
Mincey's group tied a program record for wins in a season in the history of the program with its 32nd of the year joining the 1984-85 squad that finished the season 32-3.
In South Atlantic Conference history, Carson-Newman (32-2) becomes the fourth school to reach the Elite Eight as a team from the league makes it for the sixth time. Wingate has gone three times, Mars Hill went in 2002 and Tusculum was the last school to reach the final eight in 2010.
The winning streak for C-N inside of the friendly confines extends to 24 games, good for the fourth-longest active streak in the country.
Kayla Marosites (Elizabethton, Tenn.) set a program-record with 21 rebounds on the night, including 10 on the offensive end to earn all-tournament team recognition.
"My mindset coming into the game is to go after rebounds and hustle," Marosites assessed. "If my shot isn't falling then I know that I can always do that."
Mika Wester (Newport, Tenn.) was named the MVP of the region as she poured in a game-high 26 points and handed out five assists and picked up three steals.
"I kept hearing Thomas, our strength coach, say slow is smooth," Wester reflected. "Smooth is fast. Coming out I knew the environment was going to be crazy. I knew I had to stay poised."
A triple from the right point by Haris Price (Gatlinburg, Tenn.) opened the scoring as C-N scored nine of the first 11 points of the game in the first 3:08. The teams swapped 6-0 spurts as the Lady Eagles held a 19-14 edge after 10 minutes.
North Georgia scored five straight points in the second quarter to deadlock the score at 19. It was tied at 21 before C-N scored five straight to take the lead back. A driving layup by Price with 2:55 to go in the first half push the margin to nine only to see the Nighthawks score the next five to make it a 33-29 game with two minutes to play before the half. It was the last time that the three seed scored in the first 20 minutes as Newport scored the final four points to take a 37-29 advantage into the locker room.
"LET'S GO EAGLES" pic.twitter.com/lPESkrdCJj— C-N Athletics (@CNathletics) March 13, 2018
After Wester scored the first points of the second half, North Georgia scored seven straight to cut the deficit to three as C-N made two of its first 11 shots from the field. The Lady Eagles pushed the lead to seven with 2:44 to go in the third. It was the last time the home team scored in the stanza as the Nighthawks made it a 50-47 contest with 10 minutes to go.
A 6-0 scoring spurt by the Lady Eagles pushed the advantage to a game-high 12 points, 66-54, with 4:32 to go in the game. It was a 10-point affair with 3:06 to play when the Nighthawks reeled off eight straight capped by a triple by Abbie Franklin to cut the deficit to 69-67 with 1:22 remaining.
After trading foul shots, Franklin hit a pull up three-pointer from the left point to make it a two-point game, 73-71 with 17.8 to go. Price drilled a pair of foul shots to make it a four-point game. Franklin missed a three and Julianne Sutton missed a put back attempt as Price cleared the rebound to ignite the celebration.
It was a game where C-N never trailed and there were two ties on the night. The Lady Eagles had the edge on the glass 43-34 and scored 15 points off of 19 North Georgia giveaways.
Price was the final member of the all-tournament team for the Lady Eagles scoring 16 points with five assists and three rebounds in the contest.
Franklin went 8-for-11 from long range to lead the charge for North Georgia pouring in 24 points on the night. Sutton stuffed the stat sheet with 12 points, six boards, five assists and four blocks.
Deana Blankinship and Amber Skidgel each had 11 points as the Nighthawks shot 48 percent compared a to 39-percent clip from the Lady Eagles.
The NCAA will reseed the final eight teams and announced the pairings and matchups for the Elite Eight Tuesday afternoon. Competition starts on March 19 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D. Follow @CNathletics on Twitter and check cneagles.com/live for the details in the coming days.
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