Saturday was a Red Letter Day for Chattanooga Mocs basketball teams.
Both Chattanooga teams were victorious in Southern Conference action at McKenzie Arena.
The Lady Mocs won their second-straight game after going through a tough eight-game losing streak as they beat the East Tennessee State University Lady Buccaneers by a 76-67 final while the Chattanooga men got back on the winning track with an 80-75 victory over the Samford Bulldogs.
The Lady Mocs are now 6-10 overall and 1-0 in conference play. They will be back at home on Thursday in their next game against Wofford for a 5:30 start. The Moc men improved to 8-10 overall and 3-2 in SoCon play. The men will play the second game on Thursday as they host Mercer.
LADY MOCS 76, ETSU 67: The Lady Bucs drew first blood when Kaia Upton scored on a three-point play with 7:52 left in the opening quarter.
The lead changed hands four times in that opening frame before Micah Scheetz scored five straight points in the final minute to put the visitors from Johnson City up by two at 16-14 when the first stanza ended.
Eboni Williams knotted the score at 16 with a drive down the lane at the 9:05 mark of the second quarter and the six-foot freshman from Hoover, Alabama knocked down a 3 from the key 40 seconds later.
The Lady Mocs never trailed again.
Carley Lytton sank a 3 from the key at the buzzer to send the two teams into the dressing room at intermission tied at 34.
Morgan Hill’s 3 from the wing gave the Lady Mocs a 37-34 lead to start the second half. Erica Haynes-Overton followed with a jumper from the baseline to make it 37-36, but it never got any closer as the Lady Mocs slowly pulled away.
A pair of free throws by Lakelyn Bouldin with 23.7 seconds left gave Chattanooga a 57-52 lead when the third quarter ended while a putback by Williams with 7:22 to play gave the Lady Mocs their biggest lead at 64-53.
ETSU then scored eight straight points to trail by only three at 64-61, but the Lady Mocs saved the day at the free throw line as they hit 10 of 12 in the final two minutes, including eight straight to end the game.
Needless to say, Chattanooga coach Katie Burrows was all smiles during her post-game interview.
“What a great way for us to start Southern Conference play,” she began.
“We faced some of the best teams in the country before Christmas, so we were ready for everything they threw at us. We were able to get some good looks on the offensive end, but we basically just executed our game plan all the way around.
“Our kids responded to the challenge, but we have to learn how to screen better. Lakelyn had another big game as she stepped up and led our team today. But it sure does feel good to come in here and talk about a win and we’re all excited about being on a winning streak,” Burrows added.
Bouldin scored 19 points to lead Chattanooga, despite not hitting a 3 in five attempts. She also had four rebounds and only two turnovers while logging almost 39 minutes.
Williams had her best day as a Lady Moc as she had career highs with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Brooke Burns was also in double figures with 11 points.
Scheetz had 19 points to lead the Lady Bucs while Lexus Spears was next with 13. Haynes-Overton finished with nine points, which was seven points below her average.
UTC MEN 80, SAMFORD 75: It was a game of streaks for Chattanooga and they needed every single one to prevail.
The Bulldogs built a 9-2 lead in the first two minutes before the Mocs scored 14 unanswered points in the next five and a half minutes.
Another 10-0 run gave the Mocs a 31-23 lead with 6:19 left in the first half. Back-to-back 3s from Kevin Easley and Thomas Smallwood gave Chattanooga its biggest lead of the half at 39-29 before Samford’s 10-2 run in the final four minutes had the Mocs leading 41-39 at the half.
It was still anybody’s game at that point, but the Mocs came out firing in the second half and scored 10 straight points in the opening 2:30.
A baseline jumper by Donovann Toatley with 12:15 to play gave the Mocs their biggest lead at 65-51, but again, the Bulldogs came back.
Robert Allen scored on a putback with 2:11 to play as Samford got within one at 72-71, but back-to-back 3s from David Jean-Baptiste and Easley gave the Mocs a 78-73 lead with 54 seconds to play.
Josh Sharkey scored on a drive with 47 seconds to play, but Jerry Johnson swished a pair of free throws with 7.3 seconds left to put the game out of reach after Sharkey shot an airball on Samford’s final possession.
UTC coach Lamont Paris was happy with another conference win, but especially pleased when he realized his team had a 38-36 advantage on the board against a taller Samford squad.
“That was huge, but we did a good job of blocking out. Today we were committed to doing what we asked them to do, but we got some key stops at the start of the second half and we also made some key baskets,” he began.
“I thought we played a good first half, but that early run in the second really gave us a lot of confidence. You always want to play well at home, but we have a bunch of guys who are hungry to play. I’m really proud of how we fought.
“We stayed the course on what we wanted to do defensively, but we also made a few big shots here and there. Those were the keys to our win tonight,” Paris added.
Samford coach Scott Padgett pointed to Chattanooga’s ability to hit big shots when the game got close as a key to his team getting beat.
“Chattanooga has a talented team and they made some big shots. It seemed like every time we’d make a run and get somewhat close, they’d hit a 3,” the former Kentucky standout said at the beginning.
“We need to figure out just who we want to be and we need to know we have to play defense for the entire 40 minutes. I thought we slept-walked through most of the first half and dug ourselves a hole in the process. We can’t win many basketball games if we’re going to play defense in spurts.
“Most of the time, you get what you deserve and earn in both life and basketball. Tonight we had some good moments, but we also had some really bad ones,” he added.
Easley scored 20 points to lead Chattanooga’s offense while newcomer Ramon Vila, a seven-footer from Barcelona, Spain had 18 points and 11 rebounds. Toatley came off the bench to score 10 while Smallwood had nine after hitting all three of his shots from long range. Jerry Johnson also had nine points.
Sharkey had 22 points and was one of five Samford players in double figures. Robert Allen had 16 and Ruben Guerrero 14 while Myron Gordon and Brandon Austin followed with 13 and 10 points, respectively. Allen also had 10 rebounds while Guerrero snagged nine.
The Mocs hit 31 of 59 field goals for 52.5 percent, including 12 of 24 from long range.
EAST TENNESSEE 16 18 18 15 -- 67
CHATTANOOGA 14 20 23 19 -- 76
ETSU (67) – Snowden 3, Tipss, Lytton 8, Upton 5, Haynes-Overton 9, Stafford, Scheetz 19, Craig 2, Adams, Dean 8, Spears 13.
UTC (76) – Lee 4, Dial 7, Hill 6, Burns 11, Bouldin 19, Melton, Cornelius 2, Long 2, Davenport 2, Williams 17, Whitaker 6.
3-POINT SHOTS: ETSU 6 of 18 for 33.3 percent (Snowden 0-1, Lytton 2-6, Haynes-Overton 0-1, Scheetz 2-5, Dean 2-5); Chattanooga 6 of 21 for 28.6 percent (Dial 1-4, Hill 2-5, Burns 1-2, Bouldin 0-5, Williams 2-5).
REBOUNDS: ETSU 32 (Spears 7, Haynes-Overton 6); Chattanooga 43 (Williams 11, Burns 5).
ASSISTS: ETSU 9 (Upton 3); Chattanooga 9 (Burns 4).
TURNOVERS: ETSU 18 (Haynes-Overton 7); Chattanooga 19 (Burns 3, Long 3).
STEALS: ETSU 8 (Upton 3); Chattanooga 8 (Dial 2, Hill 2, Bouldin 2).
FIELD GOALS: ETSU 24 of 60 for 40.0 percent; Chattanooga 26 of 61 for 42.6 percent.
FREE THROWS: ETSU 13 of 21 for 61.9 percent; Chattanooga 18 of 25 for 72.0 percent.
SAMFORD (75) – Allen 16, Guerrero 14, Austin 10, Sharkey 22, Gordon 13, Thomas, Dye, Lakic.
CHATTANOOGA (80) – Vila 18, Easley 20, Scott 5, Johnson 9, Jean-Baptiste 6, Caldwell, Brown, Smallwood 9, Commander 3, Toatley 10.
3-POINT GOALS: Samford 5 of 15 for 33.3 percent (Allen 0-2, Austin 2-3, Sharkey 2-4, Gordon 1-4, Thomas 0-2); Chattanooga 12 of 24 for 50 percent (Vila 0-1, Easley 4-6, Scott 1-2, Johnson 1-4, Jean-Baptiste 2-5, Smallwood 3-3, Commander 1-2, Toatley 0-1).
REBOUNDS: Samford 36 (Allen 10, Guerrero 9, Austin 7); Chattanooga 38 (Vila 11, Easley 6, Scott 6).
ASSISTS: Samford 10 (Sharkey 7), Chattanooga 16 (Toatley 4, Jean-Baptiste 4, Smallwood 3).
TURNOVERS: Samford 7 (Sharkey 4); Chattanooga 14 (Toatley 4).
STEALS: Samford 7 (Guerrero 3); Chattanooga 2 (Jean-Baptiste 2).
FIELD GOALS: Samford 29 of 68 for 42.6 percent; Chattanooga 31 of 59 for 52.5 percent.
FREE THROWS: Samford 12 of 14 for 85.7 percent; Chattanooga 6 of 13 for 46.2 percent.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)