Perennial Community College powerhouse, Walters State invaded the "Q" on Wednesday night for a pair of key early season NJCAA/TCCAA Region VII matchups with Cleveland State. The Ladies contest saw a pair of undefeated (in conference play) teams knock heads from start to finish. After a seesaw battle all night long, the Lady Senators finally came out on top by a final score of 69-61.
The Cougars took care of business on the men's side of things by building a big lead and then holding on for dear life to legislate a 76-67 win over the Senators.
Nicky Jones and Kyisha Dalton hit a layup each in the early going for the Lady Cougars as the home team got off to a good start against the powerful inside game and much taller Lady Senators.
To say it was a physical game would be and understatement as the teams combined to take 26 free throws (13 each) in the first two periods.
After leading 19-16 at the first stop, the Lady Cougars suddenly went cold from the field as Walters State picked up the pace to jump into the lead. Kiera Hill converted a three-point play while Vertonia Bady began to rain 3-point bombs down on the home team, hitting three in a row to help the visitors to take the lead and hold a 36-28 halftime advantage.
Cleveland State opened the third quarter with a 12-4 run to take the lead as De'Zah Lacy tossed in a three-ball, a layup and a steal and another layup to spur the run. Walters State then responded with a mini run of their own as they regained a 49-44 lead at the third stop.
Despite battling foul trouble for much of the game, the Cleveland ladies just kept coming as they sliced the lead to two points a couple of times in the fourth frame, but were never quite able to get over the hump. Emma Harig converted a three-point play and Asjah Harrell added a long trey to the cause, but the Lady Senators managed to hit just enough free throws down the stretch to secure the hard-earned win.
The Lady Cougars (6-1, 3-1) shot a frigid 30% from the floor for the night while the Lady Senators (6-3, 5-0) were a little better at 41%. Ten missed free tosses haunted Cleveland State (19-29) as did the 2-18 shooting from three-point land. Harig led the way for Cleveland State with 19 points and 9 rebounds and Lacy finished with 16. Hill ruled the paint for Walters State with 15 points and 13 boards while Bady and G. G. Hollingsworth added 14 points apiece.
COUGARS 76 SENATORS 67
On paper, the Cougars looked like the underdogs to the much taller trees of the Senators, but luckily the home team wasn't bothered by the height disadvantage and proceeded to overwhelm their guests with defense for much of the night.
To say that the Senators had a cold-shooting first half would be a huge understatement, due in large part to the Constant Cougar defensive pressure, and much to the dismay of long-time Senator coach Bill Carlyle who was not a happy camper for much of the proceedings.
A pair of short buckets from Isaiah Farrior put the visitors on top 4-2, but a quick eight point run by the Cougars put them on top to stay. K'Juan Banks canned a three-pointer, Kobe Pride came off the bench and immediately converted a three-point play while Marcus Averhart hit a short jumper and a long shot from way downtown.
Neither team exactly lit up the scoreboard in the first 20 minutes with shooting percentages in the low 30's as the Cougars managed to hold on for a 25-20 halftime lead.
A 15-6 run to open the second half gave the Cougars a comfortable lead, but as it would turn out they would need every point.
In what seemed like one of the longest halves in recorded basketball history, a very physical game resulted in a parade on both ends of the court to the free throw line for the final 10 plus minutes of the game. After combining for nine free tosses in the first half, both teams went to the line a combined 72 times in the second half.
When the dust had finally settled, Walters State was only able to hit 14 of their 30 free tosses while the Cougars knocked down 37 of their 51 tries. Six of those points for the Cougars came on three Techincal fouls called on the Senators as coach Carlyle continued his rather entertaining discussions with the three gentlemen wearing striped shirts for much of the night.
The Senators did manage to pull themselves together late in the game as they used a tremendous full-court-press to cause several Cougar turnovers for easy buckets late in the game, thus slicing a 19-point lead at the eight minute mark to only a five point spread with two minutes to go.
Three straight Senator three-pointers did most of the damage as Ronnie Thompson Jr., Ty Hurst and Josh Jerome all found the range from behind the line. The comeback would end there though as Averhart knocked down four crucial free tosses in the final minute to secure the win.
Cleveland State managed to shoot 40% for the game to 38% for the Senators, but hit only three of their 13 shots from downtown while the Senators hit 5 of 17 long range shots. Khris Green led the Cougars (6-3, 3-1) with 17 points, 7 rebounds and four steals, Averhart finished and outstanding effort with 15 points including 10-12 from the free throw line while Miguel Shaw chipped in with 11 points and 11 boards. Jerome paced the Senators (7-4, 2-3) with 19 points Farrior added 12 points and Hurst had 10.
Cleveland State will now hit the road on Saturday for a big Region matchup at Jackson State and then a trip to Gadsden State on Wednesday before the Christmas break then return home on January 5th to take on Motlow State.