Defense Leads Lady Tornado to Beat Bobcats
Though not the sole difference of the game, the Bobcats committed two technical fouls that led to four King points from the free throws that followed. In the final 20 seconds of the first half, a foul on the Lady Tornado sent Icey Patterson to the line for two free throw shots. After Patterson converted the first, LMC brought Julian Faltus into the game, however, Faltus was wearing a jersey number different from what was submitted to the official scorebook which led the an administrative technical foul. Brooke Johnson (Roan Mountain, Tenn.) hit both ensuing free throws to bring King within four points, 23-19, before Patterson finished off her free throws originating from the foul that put her at the line to drive the lead back to five points. Before the half ended, Johnson hit another pair of free throws stemming from a Lees-McRae foul to close the gap to three points, 24-21, heading into the half.
The second technical foul began to turn the tide and fed into a 16-5 run in the middle of the second half that gave the Lady Tornado the lead. Kelly Jackson (Lynchburg, Va.) began the run with a layup just inside 14:00 remaining, but trailing 35-32 Icey Patterson committed a technical foul that sent Johnson to the line once again and fouled her out of the game. After Jackson turned the ball over under her own basket, Patterson was called for a reach-in foul and her reaction to the call resulted in the technical foul. Johnson converted both free throws and King scored the next 10 of the next 15 points to go up six, 46-40.
King (2-13, 2-4) never relinquished the lead after gaining it back near the seven-minute mark though Lees-McRae fought to the bitter end. After Johnson put the Lady Tornado up five following a pair of good free throws, LMC guard Paige Whitaker responded with a deep three from the left wing to draw within two points, 54-52. Though it seemed like the game would turn into a free throw battle with 14 seconds to go, the Bobcats forced a turnover on the inbound pass to regain possession with less than 10 seconds to go and give Lees-McRae a chance to tie or take the lead.
Lees-McRae immediately called a timeout after stealing the ball to set up its own play, but Brittany Kinser (Greeneville, Tenn.) sniffed out the attempt by stealing the ball off of the inbound pass from Megan Tate. Kinser stepped in front of the inbound pass that came in near mid-court and was immediately fouled to send her to the line. Kinser split her free throws, hitting the first and missing the second. After Kerri Belcher came down with the rebound and the Bobcats called a timeout to set up another play, LMC's Megan Tate attempted to redeem herself with a last-second, deep three pointer nearly eight feet off the three-point line on the left wing but missed to left as the game horn sounded one final time.
Johnson led the Lady Tornado with 16 points, 14 coming from the free throw line on 16 attempts. She added three rebounds, a steal and an assist in the win. Senior Kalen Collins (Wise, Va.) also finished in double figures, registering 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field and a perfect 2-for-2 from the charity stripe. Three players finished with six points, including Alley Sprouse (Newport, Tenn.) who hit half of her six shots from the field. Collins and Mikki Oliver (Hampton, Tenn.) led King with six rebounds.
King trailed 24-21 after the first half after shooting 27.6 percent from the field. They turned their percentage around, improving nearly 30 percent in the second half. The Lady Tornado hit 52.9 percent of their field goals in the second half, all inside the three-point line. They attempted a season-high 26 free throws and converted a season-high 21 (.808). The King defense kept the Bobcats below 33 percent from both short (.321) and long range (.316) for the game. Lees-McRae's field goal shooting percentage (.321) was the lowest mark for a King opponent since their last win against Converse on Jan. 3 when they held the Valkyries to 24.6 percent.
With the win, the Lady Tornado improve to 2-13 overall and 2-4 within Conference Carolinas. They will return to the Student Center Complex gym on Saturday, Jan. 21, to begin a King Basketball doubleheader at 5:30 p.m. against Barton College. The men's team will follow against the Bulldogs at 7:30 p.m., tentatively.