03/09/09 — Anderson turns back Trojans, earns crown

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Anderson turns back Trojans, earns crown

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on March 9, 2009 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- An official's whistle blew.

Tomeka Prichard bent over and buried her head in her hands.

The all-time leading scorer in Mount Olive College women's basketball history had just fouled out. She was suddenly struck with the harsh reality that her career and the team's NCAA Division II tournament bid had slipped away.

The second-seeded Trojans trimmed an 18-point, second-half deficit to 10 points, but sharp-shooting Anderson answered and claimed an 83-60 victory in the Conference Carolinas championship game Sunday afternoon. The "other" Trojans claimed the league's automatic bid to the Southeast Regional, which begins this weekend at Lenoir-Rhyne College.

Anderson (18-12) drew the fifth seed and opposes fourth-seeded Clayton State in the opening round.

Mount Olive, which finished a program-best 23-7, did not receive an at-large bid to the eight-regional, 64-team tournament.

Anderson led 58-40 less than seven minutes into the second half before the Trojans rattled off eight unanswered points to pull within 58-48.

"I think everybody always feels like we're in it until it's over," said MOC senior guard Brittney Robich. "Obviously, when we were cutting it down and it was 16 and then down to 14 and 10, we felt like we had the momentum and we were coming back."

But MOC went cold.

Anderson stretched its advantage to 72-48 with a 14-0 run. The Trojans missed open jump shots and uncontested layups from its normally-consistent shooters.

Prichard, who scored 14 first-half points, watched from the bench while in foul trouble most of the second half. The Havelock native finished with a team-best 16 points.

"I can't be too hard on the kids. You want to see those shots go in and they don't," said MOC head coach Wendy Lee. "We did get some good looks and I think frustration can cause you to miss some shots you normally would hit.

"I think the foul situation was a factor. It seemed that we had foul problems and they didn't, and it was a little bit questionable I would say."

Prichard and Jasmine Whitby knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers and Helen Moore's free throw gave Mount Olive a 23-18 lead with less than 10 1/2 minutes to play in the first half.

Tournament MVP Keana Boyd scored 13 of her 18 first-half points during a 29-10 run that sent Anderson into the half with a 47-33 lead. Boyd had a game-high 23 points and was one of five Anderson players to score in double figures.

"I felt like today was probably Anderson's best offensive day of the year," said Lee. "Boyd had a tremendous first half. We were in the face of shooters and they were just hitting shots. Boyd has the ability to make runs like that and she did it last year .

"We knew she was capable of it."

Whitby scored 15 points to go with nine rebounds and was joined by Prichard on the All-Tournament team.

Mount Olive's 23 victories are its most since moving to the Division II level in 1995. The Trojans have recorded back-to-back 20-win seasons for the second time in school history.

Despite not clinching a second consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament, Lee commended her team's accomplishments while battling through injuries, unexpected losses and adversity this season.

"We talked in the locker room about not being stuck on today," said Lee. "We've already had as good or a better season than we did last year. We just don't get the postseason play of being in the NCAA tournament. All in all, we've exceeded our regular-season win total from last year, so we've already made program history.

"We've got two first-team all-conference players which is another first. I think we'll still have a lot of good memories from this season."