Basketball (W)

Catawba women sparkle in conference opener

By David Shaw, The Salisbury Post It is time to start taking the fourth-ranked Catawba women’s basketball team seriously. Sure, the 10-2 overall record sparkles in the display window. But until Saturday’s come-from-behind victory over visiting Lenoir-Rhyne, the defending SAC champion was something of a mystery. “We grew up and found a way to overcome some things,” coach John Duncan said after Catawba played a monster second half, scored the game’s last 10 points and earned an 87-84 win in its conference opener.“I think we’re for real,” he added. “But being such a young team, what does that mean? Are we going to be super-competitive and win some, lose some? Or are we gonna get on a roll? Only time will tell.” The Lady Indians were more laborers than craftsmen against seventh-ranked L-R (10-3, 0-1 SAC). They bulldozed their way through one crisis after another, finally prevailing when part-timer Desiree Pugh made her only basket — a layup from the left baseline that put Catawba ahead with 11 seconds to play. “What we showed today,” said forward Danyel Locklear, “was how big our heart is. We knew (Pugh) would pull through for us. We’ve got faith in all of our teammates.” That faith was severely tested in the first half when Catawba, minus the foul-plagued Locklear, fell behind 33-23 on Ebony Orr’s 3-pointer with 5:35 on the clock. “Even then, we never had any doubts,” said Dorthell Little, Catawba’s high-scorer with a season-best 26 points. “We knew we just had to play hard and be careful about unforced turnovers.” It was another teammate — 6-1 freshman Kendall Prescott — who steered the Indians out of harm’s way. She scored nine of her 19 points in a two-and-a-half minute stretch, including her first 3-pointer of the season, as Catawba inched within 43-36 at the half. “When it got to crunch time, we realized we couldn’t keep trading baskets and expect to win,” she smiled afterward. “At some point we had to stop them on their end.” That point came early in the second half, when Catawba scored eight straight points and took a 44-43 lead on Ella Pasola’s pull-up jumper inside the lane. The score was later tied on five occasions before L-R mounted an 84-77 lead when do-everything forward Sally Logan converted three free throws with 3:43 remaining. “I thought we had it,” said losing coach Karen Barefoot. “We were playing strong. We had them right where we wanted them. We just didn’t take care of business.” Logan was truly amazing. She shot 10-for-15 from the field, knocked down seven of eight 3-point tries and scored a game-high 34 points — all in 27 minutes off the bench. “We stayed in a zone even though she was hitting those outside shots,” said Duncan. “It kept us out of foul trouble.” Down the stretch the Indians did switch to a man-to-man and denied L-R a basket over the final 4:05. “We continued to execute,” said Barefoot. “But we didn’t finish.” Catawba did. Pugh’s winning basket came after Little stole an inbounds pass with 19 seconds to go. But instead of forcing a low-percentage shot, she held the ball until Pugh shook her defender and got free at the doorstep. “I wasn’t going to rush it,” Little explained. “So I pulled it back out, used the clock and looked to run something smart.” That’s something Duncan has spent many billable hours working on. “Using the clock to your advantage,” he said, “and making short, smart passes. That was good to see.” So was this victory, clutched from the arms of defeat. “We’re the champions,” said Locklear. “We’re not gonna let anything slip past us. Nothing.” Now that sounds serious. *** NOTES: Catawba shot 56 percent (20-for-36) from the field in the second half, when it outrebounded L-R, 24-15. ... Locklear finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Little pulled down 10 boards. ... Fueled by Logan, the visitors converted 12 of 24 3-point attempts. ... Catawba visits Tusculum Wednesday night. LENOIR-RHYNE (84) — Bryan 4, Hanks 15, Grady 8, Orr 6, Logan 34, Thomas 2, Blacknell 11, Burleson 4. CATAWBA (87) — Locklear 18, Little 26, Prescott 19, Cox 4, Pasola 8, Kaufman, Pugh 2, Rangel 6, Valentine 4, Darden. L-Rhyne 43 41 — 84 Catawba 36 51 — 87 #####

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