Trojans advance to conference finals
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 6, 2011 1:51 AM
MOUNT OLIVE -- The young-uns followed the seniors' lead.
Freshman Jasmine McDonald and sophomore Alyssa Luebs recorded back-to-back key plays within a 30-second span, and Mount Olive College earned its third trip to the Conference Carolinas women's basketball tournament final in the last four seasons Friday evening.
Seniors Jasmine Whitby and Shequanta McGee poured in 22 points apiece for the Trojans, who defeated semifinal-round opponent Limestone (S.C.) College 78-70 inside Kornegay Arena. The Conference Carolinas player-of-the-year, Whitby pulled down 10 rebounds in the final home game of her career.
Mount Olive (21-7 overall) travels to regular-season champion Barton today with an NCAA Division II Southeast Regional berth on the line. Tip-off is 2 p.m. at Wilson Gymnasium.
Whitby's two free throws gave the Trojans a 57-48 lead with 10:07 left in the ballgame. Maria Young buried a 3-pointer off the dribble to start a 16-7 run and her sixth 3-pointer of the night pushed the Saints ahead 66-64 around the 5 1/2-minute mark.
"(One) thing that makes them difficult to guard is they're playing four guards, so there is a mismatch for a post (player) to guard a guard," said Trojans head coach Wendy Lee. "On the perimeter, three of the four can score 10 to 20 points and Young getting 20 is a given. They can do it off the drive or hit the three.
"They're a very good offensive team in the fact that each player has the ability to score."
McGee's offensive putback off Brittany Miller's missed jumper tied the game at 66-66. The Saints turned over their next possession and the Trojans missed a shot. McDonald stepped into the open space, grabbed the rebound and knocked down an 8-footer to put MOC ahead for good, 68-66.
McDonald stole the ball on Limestone's next possession and Luebs missed underneath. The 6-footer from Havelock hustled downcourt and drew a charge against Saints' guard Stephanie Hayes with 1:54 to go.
Whitby's jumper boosted MOC's advantage to 70-66.
"We played off each other's confidence and belief that we're going to do this and I felt like it was a time where it was very pivotal," said Lee. "The determination of the seniors, especially Scoot (McGee) and Jasmine, gave us the confidence that everybody else needed. The rest of the team played off our leaders at the time, they got some big plays.
"It wasn't just one person."
Nastashia Mitchell's offensive putback closed the gap to 70-68 for the Saints, who had 14 second-chance points in the final 20 minutes of play.
Whitby's short jumper in the lane made it 72-68. After each team missed front ends of one-and-one attempts at the free throw line, Whitby calmly drained two free shots with 16.9 seconds to go.
"At the beginning, I think I was just a little nervous," said Whitby, who collected 15 second-half points. "But once the second half came, I didn't want this to be my last game. I had to step up for our team."
Limestone climbed to within 74-70 with 2.7 seconds to go. McGee drew a hard foul at midcourt, which caused Saints head coach Corey Fox to argue the call and the foul discrepancy in the final 10 minutes. Fox received a technical for his tirade and McGee knocked down all four free throws to seal the outcome.
MOC earned its 12th victory against Limestone since 2004.
"We played the last five minutes with total energy," said Whitby. "At halftime, Coach talked to us about how we needed to reach our boiling point and step it up, so we went out after it. We've got a team full of seniors, and all of us knew and believed that this is not our last game ... we're not done.
"We haven't made it to where we want to be yet."