Lady Bucs rally falls short vs. Charleston

By Ivan Sanders
STAR CORRESPONDENT
isanders@starhq.com

   In the first half of action from the East Tennessee State Lady Buc game on Saturday at the Mini-Dome, the Lady Bucs couldn't have thrown a snowman in the basket.
   The second half was completely different as the Lady Bucs got hotter than a Tahiti vacation in battling back from a 17-point halftime deficit to even the score before the Lady Cougars of the College of Charleston escaped the confines of Memorial Center with a 74-71 victory.
   "You have to play two good half's of basketball if you expect to win," stated Lady Buc head coach Karen Kemp. "When you go in to the locker room at halftime trailing by 17 points, you're going to have to work your tails off to have a chance at victory and unfortunately that was where we placed ourselves today."
   In all reality, two Lady Cougars outscored the entire Lady Buc team in the first half as guard Rachel King did the damage from outside hitting five of seven three-point shots plus a field goal for 17 points while another Lady Cougar was clawing the Lady Bucs from inside.
   Wilma Simpson couldn't miss in the first 20 minutes as she hit six of six field goals and two of two from the charity stripe for 14 first half points to combine with King for 31 points to only 28 points scored by the Lady Bucs.
   Five other Lady Cougars notched points in the half to push the overall lead to 45-28 after the first 20 minutes. ETSU also received scoring from a total of 9 players, but their leading scorer, Misty Copas, had only six points to pace the Lady Bucs.
   Lauren Trantham and Carla Akers added four each to keep the Lady Bucs from being any further behind than the 17 point up-hill battle they faced.
   The second half was like looking at an ugly person who had a face-lift as the Lady Bucs came out with the intensity turned up, forcing the Lady Cougars into several turnovers and causing the College of Charleston players to lose the momentum that totally belonged to them in the first half of action.
   Using a 19-6 run over the first seven minutes of the second half, the Lady Bucs behind the superb play of Trantham and Jessica Lonon pulled within four points at 51-47. Trantham tossed in seven points and Lonon four during the run.
   "I really came out with more of a defensive attitude in the second half," said Lonon. "The baskets just came as a result of the decision to play more aggressive after halftime."
   After a basket from Simpson slowed the Buc run, Lonon again was at it as she nailed four more points to close the gap to 53-51 with 11:31 left to play. The game stayed nip and tuck until ETSU finally evened the tally at 62-62 on a bucket by Adrienne Walker with 3:30 showing on the clock.
   The game came down to a dramatic closure as the Bucs once again evened the score at 66-66 with 1:57 left on a basket by guard Tope Ogunniyi of ETSU. College of Charleston built their edge back to four on two free throws from Simpson with only :23 seconds left to play.
   After such a furious rush to the top, State wasn't ready to go away. A bucket from Walker and a big trey from Akers had the Lady Bucs within one point, 72-71, with :06 left.
   King was fouled immediately after the trey from Akers and pushed the lead back to three for the Lady Cougars with a miniscule :05 seconds left. The Lady Bucs had one last gasp of hope left, but having not faced this type of situation during the season, ETSU simply couldn't get in position for a game-tying three-point shot before time expired.
   "I take full responsibility for that chaos with five seconds left in the game," stated Kemp. "We simply wasn't prepared to do what was needed for us to stay in the game so that is my fault."
   Lonon lead the Lady Bucs with 15 points, 12 coming in the second half. Trantham contributed with 11 while teammates Copas and Kiya Verdell tossed in with 9 points each.
   Simpson finished up hitting 11-16 from the field and four of four from the free throw line for a game-high 26 points. King basically was shut down in the second half as she added four points to finish out with 21 for the Lady Cougars. Both outputs were career-highs for each player in scoring.
   With the win, College of Charleston runs it's overall record to 7-8, 2-4 in the Southern Conference. For the Lady Bucs, they drop to 4-11 overall and a 1-5 slate in the conference. ETSU will be at home on Monday night at 7 pm to face the Furman Paladins in the Mini-Dome.