Verdell propels Lady Bucs past Davidson

By Allen LaMountain

ASST. SPORTS EDITOR
awlamountain@starhq.com

     JOHNSON CITY -- With the fast-break offenses of both East Tennessee State and Davidson moving with the speed of a tricycle on a freeway - a defensive contest would seem to be the order of the day.
     On Saturday afternoon at Memorial Center, junior guard Kiya Verdell got the Lady Buccaneer offense jump-started as ETSU rallied from a six-point second half deficit to take a 66-64 Southern Conference win from the Lady Wildcats.
     Verdell tallied 28 points with four rebounds and five blocked shots in a solid effort as the Lady Bucs (5-11 overall, 2-6 SoCon) snapped a two-game home losing streak.
     "Kiya made her mind up that she was coming to play today," said a well-pleased Lady Bucs head coach Karen Kemp. "She had a career game and she was brimming with confidence so I made up my mind to put the ball in her hands at the end."
     Verdell didn't disappoint as she canned a nice running jump shot in the lane that went through the cords with three ticks left on the clock.
     "It was a lot of pressure," said Verdell. "We had a couple days off and I took the time to get some shooting in and it paid off today."
     It didn't look like it was going to be a good day for ETSU early on as Davidson (7-10 overall, 2-6 SoCon) ran off to a quick 8-2 lead and it looked as if the Lady Wildcats size advantage in the post was going to pay big dividends for coach Annette Watts' squad.
     "We did have a size advantage and we had it going our way when Trantham got into foul trouble," Watts said. "But, inconsistent play has been our biggest nemesis this season. We wanted to get the ball inside, but the shots weren't falling for us."
     Lady Bucs' junior post Lauren Trantham - who matched up well with Davidson's 6'0" center Bethany Schott - committed her fourth personal foul at the 13:33 mark and was forced to sit a lot in the second half.
     Trantham finished with eight points and a team-high nine rebounds.
     "We didn't do a good job moving our feet on defense," said Verdell. "That led to a lot of fouls. We picked it up better and did a better job in the second half."
     Davidson took a 39-34 lead into the break with Schott's 14 points and guard Emily Callahan's 12 points leading the way. Verdell tallied 12 first half points, with Trantham and Adrienne Walker each scoring six for the Lady Bucs.
     Davidson held a 48-42 lead in the second half when Lady Bucs' post Jessica Lonon hit a shot in the paint to ignite a 10-0 Lady Bucs run that saw ETSU take it's first lead of the day at 52-48.
     In the run, the Bucs converted three straight possessions on steals in the mid-court area, with Walker scoring four points on two steals and Verdell also getting a steal and an easy conversion at the other end.
     "Defense is what brought us back," said Kemp. "It allowed us some easy buckets and I think our 1-3-1 zone caught them off guard. It paid off today. We are always preaching defense, defense, defense."
     A basket by Callahan ended the Bucs run and made it a two-point game, and moments later Robyn Frewelling dropped in a deuce for Davidson to tie the game at 52-52.
     Verdell then converted off an offensive rebound to put the Bucs back on top, but another basket by Schott, knotted things at 54-54.
     At the 2:42 mark of regulation a steal and bucket by Samantha Copeland gave ETSU a 60-57 advantage, but Callahan drained a game-tying three for the Lady Wildcats at the 2:15 mark.
     Callahan and Verdell then traded baskets before Trantham hit a turnaround shot in the paint to give ETSU a 64-62 lead with just over 35-seconds left to play.
     Frewelling tied the contest at 64-64 with a basket and the Lady Bucs used their final timeout to talk about setting up the last shot.
     Verdell took the ball at the top of the key and went left and pulled up just inside the lane and her shot went in with three seconds left.
     Davidson got the inbounds pass in, but had no time to set up a shot as the buzzer sounded.
     "We worked all week on last-second shots," said Watts. "We wanted to make the stop on defense and have a chance at a break, but Kiya's good. I have coached against her for a long time - since high school - and she made her shot."