The Western Carolina Lady Catamount basketball team placed second in the Beach Blast Tournament held last weekend in Wilmington. WCU fell to tournament host UNC Wilmington in the championship game after defeating the Lady Mountaineers of West Virginia in the opening round.
Despite leading for most of the game, Western Carolina (4-3) lost to the Lady Seahawks (5-1) 75-68 Sunday to place second in the tournament. After taking a 39-38 edge at the half, the Lady Cats stormed out of the gates in the second stanza. Senior guard April Fleck laid in two of her 16 points with 15:01 left in the half to give the squad a nine point advantage, their largest of the contest.
The Lady Seahawks, however, slowly began to chip into the lead. Eventually, they would take the lead at the 2:36 mark and make several shots down the stretch to steal the victory from the Lady Catamounts.
Junior forward Laura Echols, named to the Beach Blast All-tournament team, chalked up 27 points after an astounding shooting performance. This display featured Echols nailing nine of 11 shots from the field and nine of ten free throws.
Fleck led the squad with six rebounds to go along with her 16 points and freshman forward Tiffany Hamm notched 12 points for the purple and gold. Sophomore point guard Christy Blackwell guided the offense with a game-high seven assists.
Western Carolina head coach Beth Dunkenberger felt her team played well the entire game. In her words, the Lady Seahawks simply overwhelmed her team in the closing minutes.
“We were up most of the second half and really felt we were in position to win,” she said. “It was just a case where Wilmington played really well down the stretch and we just weren’t able to answer offensively.”
In first-round action, the Lady Cats overcame a ten-point half time deficit to defeat West Virginia (2-3) 81-73 Saturday.
After trailing the Lady Mountaineers 44-34 at the half, Western opened the second half with a 16-2 run, spanning 5:08 to take a 50-46 lead with just under 15 minutes left in the contest. Though West Virginia stayed close throughout, the Lady Cats would never relinquish this lead on their way to an eight-point victory.
Echols once again led the squad, notching a double-double with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Fleck joined Echols in double figures with 19 points. Blackwell had an impressive all-around performance, tallying 11 points to go along with six assists and five steals.
Despite shooting just over 40 percent from the field, the Lady Catamounts dominated the boards, out-rebounding the Lady Mountaineers 42-30. This mark included a 16-6 advantage on the offensive glass. This advantage helped Western Carolina outscore West Virginia 47-29 in a dominating second-half performance.
According to Dunkenberger, her team’s turn-around in the second half was the result of their defensive adjustments to try to curb the Lady Mountaineers’ phenomenal first-half shooting performance, which included hitting nine of ten three point shots. “We focused in on something defensively to make sure they couldn’t get those clean outside looks,” she said.
WCU defeated Tennessee State last Wednesday in Nashville, 67-59. WCU trailed at the break by five, 33-28, but outscored TSU 39-26 in the second to take the victory.
The Lady Cats were led by Tiffany Hamm and Christy Blackwell with 11 points apiece. Echols added ten points and nine boards in the win. Janetta Heggins missed double-figures by one point, finishing with nine.
The Lady Catamounts will travel to Elon, NC, to take on the Lady Phoenix of Elon College.