Lady Bucs push past Catamounts

By Matt Hill

   JOHNSON CITY -- In the first half of Monday night's East Tennessee State-Western Carolina women's game, Kiya Verdell was as cold as an unthawed frozen food item.
   In the second half, she was as hot as a burnt steak.
   Verdell scored all 13 of her points in the second half to lead the ETSU Lady Bucs to a 73-59 win over the Lady Catamounts at Memorial Center.
   A lot of Verdell's points came in the middle of the second half when the contest was still up for grabs.
   Verdell missed her first four shots to start the game, so she was determined to heat up in the second half.
   "One of my teammates made a comment that I wasn't hitting anything, and that my shot wasn't going in." Verdell said. "I guess I had to prove her wrong."
   Verdell went 4-of-5 from the field in the second half, with three of those made baskets being three-pointers.
   ETSU head coach Karen Kemp thought Verdell was huge for the Lady Bucs in the second half.
   "She definitely stepped up, and hit some big threes for us there in the second half," Kemp said, "She has the ability to do that, it's just her injures have kind of slowed her up. But I can tell she is getting her confidence back."
   The lead went back and forth in the second half, but Verdell's trey with 6:30 left put the Lady Bucs on top for good at 54-52. It was all ETSU after that.
   A trifecta from Erin Thurman with 4:49 left gave the Lady Bucs a 59-52 edge. The Lady Bucs then extended the advantage to 63-53 with 2:34 to go when Misty Copas nailed two free-throws.
   The nail in the coffin came with 51 seconds left when Ashley Reed nailed a three-pointer to make it a 67-56 ETSU lead. The Bucs hit their foul shots from that point on to secure the win.
   The Lady Bucs went 6-of-10 from three-point land in the second half.
   Kemp wasn't satisfied with her team's performance, but she will take the win.
   "We didn't play a great game," Kemp said. "We played well enough to win, but we gave way too many offensive boards, We have to get back to work on Wednesday, and make sure that doesn't happen again. If we don't give up 18 offensive boards, we beat them by more than what we did."
   Copas, a former standout at Sullivan North, led the Lady Bucs with 14 points. She also netted seven rebounds in the contest.
   The Lady Bucs came into the contest with 10 Southern Conference losses, so Copas felt a sense of urgency during the final few minutes of the game.
   "We didn't want to lose again," Copas said. "We have to win out. We're a better team than what we've been playing, we just need to show people that we can win."
   The win was a step in the right direction for the Lady Bucs, who have now won two-straight games after going through a mid-season slump.
   According to Kemp, the Lady Bucs are now looking towards the Southern Conference Tournament.
   "If we can finish out with the momentum going into the conference tournament, that's what it's all about," Kemp said. "We're not one of those conferences that four or five teams are going to make it to the NCAA, it's the team that wins the tournament. That's where our focus is right now. When we come ready to play and play hard, we can win ball games."
   Western's charge was led by Laura Nichols, who scored 13 points on the evening. Janetta Heggins finished with an incredible total of 13 rebounds.
   Monday night was a homecoming for one Lady Catamount. Former Sullivan East star Melissa Ervin came off the bench to score five points in 22 minutes of action.
   The freshman had a huge fan following at the game, as there were probably as many people pulling for the Lady Catamounts as there were fans cheering for ETSU.
   "They told me some people were coming, but I had no idea it was that many," Ervin said. "That was very encouraging. I've been ready for this game since the beginning of the season"
   Ervin was disappointed that she couldn't make her coming home party a winning one.
   "We should of won that game I think," Ervin said. "We could have played harder. We weren't ready."
   The Lady Bucs improve to 10-14 overall, and 5-10 in the SoCon. Western falls to 14-10 overall, and 6-9 in league play.
   * ETSU post player Megan Jackson injured herself in the first half, and was on crutches when she went to the locker room at halftime.
   * Monday night's ETSU victory marked the 100th win for Coach Kemp.