March 7, 2008
Lipscomb's Lady Bisons played their last game of the 2007-2008 season, but they didn't go down without a fight.
They lost 84-64 top-seeded ETSU in the semifinals of the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament Friday afternoon at Allen Arena. The Lady Bisons advanced to the semifinals with a 73-72 win over Belmont Wednesday in the quarterfinals.
"My hat is off to coach Frank Bennett and his young ladies," said ETSU coach Karen Kemp. "They came out and played extremely well. We knew it was going to be tough because Lipscomb had played great basketball the last four or five games. Playing on their home floor we knew it was going to be a battle from tip to the end."
The Lady Bisons have only won one time in eight games with ETSU. It was the second year in a row ETSU has beaten the Lady Bisons in the tournament.
"Lipscomb played an extremely aggressive first half. We came out in the second half and kind of took control. I was pleased with our second half effort."
In their previous two games against No. 1-seeded ETSU in the regular season, the No.5-seeded Lady Bisons had started out slow. This time around they stayed close with ETSU in the first half, trailing 40-33 at intermission as ETSU's Nichelle Akers hit a lay-up at the buzzer.
The Lady Bisons never led in the game and tied it once. In the second half ETSU opened with a 23 to 9 run to take control of the game. With 7:35 left in the game the Lady Bisons trailed by 28 points, 76-48, but they never gave up.
"ETSU has been a difficult match-up for us," said Lipscomb coach Frank Bennett. "We put ourselves in a pretty good position in the first half, but the defensive pressure by ETSU was really outstanding. I am proud of my players continuing to compete to the end and what they have done the last few weeks."
On problem that cropped up for the Lady Bisons were turnovers. The Lady Bisons committed 31 which ETSU turned into 45 points.
"That was probably the key factor in the game," Bennett said. "It was not only the turnovers, but rushed and poor quality shots that gave ETSU the chance to run as well.
"We needed to be able to attack the pressure and make easy baskets quick or make some passes and make them play defense before getting a quality shot later on. It was a track meet which is not to our benefit." Senior guard Catie Woods went from the jubilation of scoring what proved to be the game-winning shot against Belmont to playing her last collegiate game.
"I'm done and I am not going to play any more," Woods said. "That aspect is really tough. But Thursday night's game was great. I am not going to take anything away from that game. It is a memory I will always keep."
Forward Kaleigh Gossman also ended her career. She admitted it was a disappointing way to say good-bye.
"It is rough, especially to lose like we did," Gossman said. "Everyone is disappointed, but no one can take the Belmont game away from us. When we look back we will remember the Belmont game and not this one."
Bennett is losing Woods, Gossman, guard Dana Carrigan and post player Rachel Davis. But the future looks bright with guard Jenna Bartsokas, a member of the A-Sun All-Freshman Team; post player Cree Nix, point guard Miaca Bowman, and forward Valerie Bronson returning along with junior forward Jilian Partin and junior post Katie Rollins.
"It is hard to replace that kind of experience," Bennett said. "We do have some talented young players who got some experience this year and we are excited about our recruits."
One freshman who surprised late was walk-on Kara Briley. She played eight minutes against ETSU and grabbed four rebounds.
"Kara really did an outstanding job of coming in for two weeks and learning what we are doing," Bennett said. "She was outstanding on the defensive end. She gave up almost nothing on the defensive end. She gave us a big boost."
Partin led the Lady Bisons against ETSU with 17 points and tied with Gossman for the rebound lead with a game-high nine. Rollins added 13 points and eight rebounds as the Lady Bisons held a 47-35 advantage on the boards.
Forward Michele DeVault scored a game-high 23 points. Forward Latisha Belcher added 17. Guard TaRonda Wiles chipped in with 11.
The Lady Bisons finished the season with a 10-22 record overall.