By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 28, 2012 2:03 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- Shed the baggage.
Play one possession at a time.
Mount Olive did just that and survived an opening-round scare in the 2012 Conference Carolinas women's basketball tournament Monday evening. Andrea Jones pumped in 11 second-half points, including four in the final 90 seconds during a come-from-behind, 63-58 victory over Erskine (S.C.) College inside Kornegay Arena.
The Trojan women, the East Division's No. 2 seed, travel to West Division champion Limestone in semifinal-round action Thursday evening. North Greenville is the guest of East Division champ Barton in the other semifinal.
The winners meet Saturday to determine the automatic qualifier to the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional.
Erskine handed MOC a 13-point loss on senior day just two weeks ago and seized the early momentum in the rematch. The Flying Fleet swished four 3-pointers during a 16-4 run which led to a 22-9 advantage just 9 1/2 minutes into the game.
Meanwhile, Mount Olive (19-8 overall) converted just two of its 22 possessions into field goals, and committed seven turnovers during that span.
"When teams hit shots early or we miss shots early, we play concerned and with baggage at times," said Trojans head coach Wendy Lee. "I think we pushed through that and started locking in on defense, so I really see us growing up in some ways even though it's late (in the season).
"We're really talking about the mental side of the game right now."
Lee burned a timeout after Erskine's early offensive outburst and blistered her team in the huddle. The Trojans responded with a half-ending surge that started on Tamara Nesmith's short jumper and ended with Jo Gary's 3-pointer, which forged a 30-30 deadlock.
Erskine drilled a 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer.
Mount Olive opened the second half with a 10-2 run behind Gary, Nesmith, Jones and Alyssa Luebs. The quartet combined for three field goals and four free throws to give the Trojans their biggest lead, 40-35.
The Flying Fleet just wouldn't sink.
Working with a four-guard lineup, Erskine moved the ball around the perimeter and penetrated at times to force the MOC defense to pinch inside on the post players. Porsha Morgan, Sha'Niqua Whitley and Rosa Powell got open looks behind the 3-point line and knocked them down to keep the Flying Fleet close.
"(So many shooters) around the perimeter is tough to guard in either man or zone (defense)," said Lee. "They're all capable of hitting threes and were all shooting threes tonight. We were trying to take care of our coverages and keep the ball in front of us because Morgan is so good off the dribble."
Erskine hit 10 3-pointers for the game.
Jones' short jumper off Jasmine McDonald's assist and a late Erskine turnover helped seal the Trojans' 11th home win of the season. Jones, who led all scorers with 16 points, canned two free throws with 22.6 seconds left for the final margin.
"I just had to knock them down so we could get out of this game and go home," said Jones.