JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Third-ranked Carson-Newman scored seven seconds into the game and never looked back leading by as many as 29 points to capture the program's sixth South Atlantic Conference crown 86-71 Saturday afternoon at Holt Fieldhouse.
"When you can win it over a 20-game schedule to where it's home-and-away and it's a long process, I've thought that would be very rewarding," Carson-Newman coach Mike Mincey stated. "We are very fortunate that we played really well in the first half and got out there to a lead because Wingate did what they always do which is comeback.
"We won the SAC and we have the top two teams in our region in our conference. Wingate is every bit as good as advertised. I'm very proud of our kids that they could put the LMU game behind them and move to this one and win a title."
It is the first league title in 21 years for the program when C-N shared with Presbyterian and the third outright championship joining the 1989-90 and 1991-92 teams.
Carson-Newman (26-2, 18-2) snaps a nine-game losing streak to Wingate (23-4, 17-3) winning over the Bulldogs for the first time since March 2, 2013 at Holt Fieldhouse.
It is the second winner-take-all matchup in the history of the conference as the Lady Eagles avenge a 51-50 loss to the Bulldogs on Feb. 26, 2005 at Holt.
C-N has won the last two regular season meetings between ranked SAC schools as the program won at Wingate on Jan. 13, 2007, 56-54.
The victory gives the Lady Eagles their 26th of the season to establish the new high mark for the program in the Division II era set in 2004-05.
Mincey's group came out of the locker room firing scoring 10 of the first 12 points, the first eight from Haris Price (Gatlinburg, Tenn.), before a timeout from Ann Hancock three minutes into the game. The margin stretched to 17 points before the final buzzer with the score displaying 25-10 C-N. Wingate was held to 27 percent shooting in the stanza.
"I think them beating us the first time was enough motivation," Price stated. "On top of that you had the SAC regular season champs. I think the motivation was there."
A 14-4 run opened the second frame for the Lady Eagles to push the margin to 23 points with 6:27 to play before the break. Wingate pulled within 17 with 1:47 to go in the half before C-N surged scoring eight of the final 10 to enter the locker room on top 51-28.
Carson-Newman shot 56 percent from the floor in the first half led by 20 points from Price who missed two shot attempts as one of three players to enter double figures through 20 minutes. Defensively, the Lady Eagles limited the Bulldogs to 38 percent shooting.
In a low-scoring third quarter that saw the home group make three of its first 10, Kelci Marosites (Elizabethton, Tenn.) canned a pair of deep triples in the final 29 seconds to push the lead to 28 at 71-43 with 10 minutes to go.
C-N's lead reached a game-high 29 points with 8:55 to go in the game. Wingate responded by going on a 20-3 scoring run to cut the deficit to 12 at 76-64 with 3:43 remaining before Mincey used a timeout. It was a 10-point game with 1:37 to go. The Bulldogs made 10 of its first 13 shots from the field in the final frame. The Lady Eagles went 8-for-8 from the line down the stretch to hold off the Bulldogs.
Price finished with a game-high 28 points going 12-for-12 from the free-throw and 6-for-10 from the charity stripe while handing out five assists.
"It feels great," Price reflected. "There's a lot of emotion right now so I don't really know what I feel. I mean it's awesome. It's one of our goals. There are plenty more that we are looking forward to."
Mika Wester (Newport, Tenn.) ended the game with 21 points, five rebounds and five assists to go along with three steals.
Briana Smith (Nashville, Tenn.) stuffed the stat sheet with 18 points while handing out a career-high seven assists with five boards and four steals.
Marta Miscenko led Wingate with 20 points, five boards and three steals. Caroline Averette had 16 points and Jasmine Stephen added 10 points.
Carson-Newman won the rebounding battle 37-34 and scored 27 points off of 18 Wingate giveaways. It was just the second time this year that Wingate allowed more than 70 points and the most points allowed by the group overall.
As the top seed in the SAC Women's Basketball Championships, C-N will host No. 8 seed Lenoir-Rhyne Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. in the quarterfinals. Broadcast coverage ignites at 5:45 p.m. with "The Appalachian Electric Cooperative Countdown to Tip-Off" on 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and cneagles.com/live on the Eagle Sports Network.