ANDERSON, S.C. – Despite never leading in the game, fourth-seeded Carson-Newman pulled within one on several occasions several times including twice in the final minute but never could get over the hump in an 82-79 loss to fifth-seeded Friday night at the Abney Athletic Center in the opening round of the 2019 NCAA Women's Basketball Championships.
"That whole second half was very frustrating," Carson-Newman coach Mike Mincey said. "To see them make that run at the end, Lander is a really good basketball, and for them to be able to do that against that caliber of a team. The loss really hurts but for them it makes me proud to be their coach that they didn't give up and they fought through circumstances we can't control. We had a chance to tie it with a two at the end."
Trailing by 11 with 3:36 to go in the game, the Lady Eagles found a surge scoring eight unanswered to close the gap to three with two minutes to go at 76-73. After a Jessica Harris jumper, Haris Price (Gatlinburg, Tenn.) made two-straight shots to cut it 78-77 with 40 seconds left.
Harris made two foul shots before Briana Smith (Nashville, Tenn.) hit a driving layup cut the deficit to one at 80-79 with 13 seconds to play. Harris split a pair of foul shots. Carson-Newman sprinted up the floor and on a cross court pass, a backcourt violation was whistled.
Once again, Harris made just one of two foul shots with six seconds to go. The Lady Eagles hustled into the front court but never got a shot attempt off as the horn expired on the campaign.
Carson-Newman (22-8) had won six of the last seven meetings with Lander (23-8) including each of the last three as the Bearcats win their second game in three tries in the postseason.
This season was the second time in the school's Division II era reaching back-to-back NCAA Tournaments. Mincey's crew finished with at least 20 wins for a third year in-a-row for the first time in 29 years.
"I am a big believer as a coach that the coach has something to do with it but you win with players," Mincey said. "Players are going to make big shots and players are going to make big plays. We built a really nice roster. We have had a nice three-year run. It's hard to do. We have a very competitive conference and very competitive region."
Lander never trailed in the first half starting the game on a 10-2 before C-N rattled off seven unanswered points. It was a one-point game at 12-11 with two minutes to go in the first frame before the Bearcats opened up their largest lead of the half using a 12-1 burst to go ahead 24-12 with 8:18 to play in the half.
Each team started to catch fire with the Lady Eagles making eight of their final 13 shots from the field in the second stanza using three triples from Ashton Wykle (Greeneville, Tenn.) to pull within three at 40-37 at the break.
The Lady Eagles cut the deficit to one less than four minutes into the second half only to yield nine unanswered points to fall behind 53-43 with 3:35 to go in the period. The margin hovered around double figures until the late surge by C-N.
Smith led the team in scoring with 20 points and six rebounds finishing her career with 1,274 points finalizing her spot in 10th on the school's scoring list.
"I wasn't highly recruited," Smith said. "Coach Mincey came to one of my state games. We talked and I visited and I knew this was the school for me. I'm so happy that I made this decision."
Price piled up 15 points, five assists and four rebounds in 33 minutes as each player fouled out in the final minute of the game. The senior ends her career seventh on the scoring list with 1,382 and 1,703 in her college career. She finished tied for fifth on the three-pointers list with 131 and eighth in assists with 342.
"It's really hard to walk away from something that you have done most of your life," Price said. "Hopefully we have taught the younger girls how to win and how to fight through games. Never walk away from the court without giving all you have."
Kayla Marosites (Elizabethton, Tenn.) added to her program record double-doubles for a season with her 21st of the year ending the night with 12 points and 13 rebounds. She sits in 10th on the C-N rebounding list with 702 entering her senior year.
Wykle finished in double figures for 10th time in her career with 12 points make four of six from long distance. The senior produced 88 triples in her career, just outside of the top 10.
"I just didn't want to go home," Wykle said. "It's been an amazing four years. For years to come I expect to come back and watch and see more championships. It will be a disappointment if this team isn't where we have been the last four years."
Tori Griffin (Strawberry Plains, Tenn.) ended the night with 10 points as the Lady Eagles outscored the Bearcats 28-13 in bench points.
C-N shot better from the floor and from three and was plus-seven on the glass while winning points in the paint, points off of turnovers and second-chance points.
Lander saw five players score in double figures led by 20 points from Miriam Recarte who entered averaging six per game. She added eight rebounds and three blocks.
Mylea McKenith went 5-for-11 from the field and made all six of her foul shots in 30 minutes. Harris had 11 with Amiaya and Sarah Crews each adding 10.
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