GREENVILLE, S.C. – Jecca Simerly tallied her seventh-career double-double with 17 points and a career-high 13 rebounds as top-seeded Carson-Newman grinded out a 79-73 win over fourth-seeded Lincoln Memorial Saturday afternoon to advance to the South Atlantic Conference Women's Basketball Championships title game.
"I think the positive mindset carried us through," Simerly stated. "We had each other's back and we weren't getting down when we had turnovers or bad plays. We kept each other's spirits high. I think [rebounding] was super important. It was a team effort and everyone did their part."
Carson-Newman (28-2) matches the conference record for wins in a season with Wingate (1990-91), Presbyterian (1999-00) and Lincoln Memorial (2016-17).
The top seed is into the finals for the eighth straight season as C-N snaps a seven-game losing streak in the semifinals dating back to the 2007 tournament.
It is the first time in four tries that the Lady Eagles beat Lincoln Memorial (18-11) in a postseason game as No. 1 seeds are now 23-4 in the tournament semis all-time.
"One of the things going into this game," Carson-Newman coach Mike Mincey said. "They had shot about 51.5 percent against us in two games and put up a lot of points. We knew if we were going to have a chance to beat them, we are going to have to do a lot better job on the defensive end."
Over the first three minutes of the game, C-N scored the game's first seven points before Cameryn Dubose made a pair of foul shots. LMU missed its first nine shots from the floor but used a 10-0 scoring spurt to take a 19-14 lead with 2:33 to play in the opening quarter. A jumper from the free-throw line by Emily Griffith put the 'Splitters on top 25-23 after 10 minutes.
Lincoln Memorial stretched its lead to six points in the first 90 seconds of the second stanza. A 15-3 burst for the Lady Eagles put C-N on top 40-34 with 3:36 to go in the first half as Tori Griffin (Strawberry Plains, Tenn.) rained in a pair of triples to cap the spurt. The Railsplitters chiseled away and trailed by two at 44-42 at halftime.
C-N started the third quarter 2-for-15 from the floor as LMU snatched a 52-50 lead with 4:04 to play in the period. The Lady Eagles scored six straight to regain the lead. Despite shooting 18 percent in the frame, C-N took a 58-54 lead into the fourth.
A jumper from Mika Wester (Newport, Tenn.) with 6:50 to go in the game pushed the margin to a game-high 10 points at 64-54. LMU whittled the deficit down to three points with 1:55 to play on a pair of foul shots from Dubose with 1:55 to play. Haris Price (Gatlinburg, Tenn.) took over making seven of eight from the line and a layup down the stretch to snare the victory.
Carson-Newman shot 58 percent in the fourth period and 41 percent overall in the game. The team went 17-for-22 from the free-throw line in the contest and outrebounded LMU 27-16 in the second half.
"We knew we had to do a better job," Mincey assessed. "They were getting second-chance opportunities. On the other end, we need to get second-chance points too because we have lived off of that even though we typically shoot it well. We knew we had to sure that up in the next 20 minutes and I'm very proud with how they did that."
Price finished the game with 20 points in 22 minutes as she was saddled with foul trouble in the game but went 10-for-12 from the charity stripe in the game.
"Coach Mincey has been working on our mentality," Price said. "If we are going to get where we want to go we have to be mentally tough. I had some lapses on a few fouls. Being on the bench with foul trouble, I tried to be there verbally."
Wester notched 14 points and five boards while Griffin scored 10 points and had four caroms in the first half.
Shea Coker led all scorers in the game with 23 points going 9-for-18 from the field while adding seven rebounds. Emily Griffith was the only other LMU player in double figures with 11 points. Dubose reeled in 10 rebounds and had eight points while Ross Mathis had nine points and seven rebounds.
Mincey's group will play second-seeded Wingate for the conference title on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Eagle Sports Network hits the air at 12:45 on 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville, Tenn.) and cneagles.com/live with "The AEC Countdown to Tip-Off".
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