CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Charlotte women’s basketball team picked up victory No. 25 on the campaign, the second highest in school history, as it pulled away late to defeat Appalachian State, 79-61, Thursday evening during WNIT First Round action inside Halton Arena. The 49ers’ triumph is their first in the postseason since 2011 when they advanced to the WNIT Semifinals.
Charlotte’s 25 triumphs are just two shy of that school-record run two years ago, while Thursday’s win was also No. 13 at home this year, equaling the single-season school mark established four previous times.
The 49ers were led the double-double pairing of seniors Jennifer Hailey and Amanda Dowe. Hailey shared game-high scoring honors with 20 points, while hauling in 11 rebounds for her 22nd double-double of the campaign, moving her into a third-place tie on the school’s single-season list. Dowe contributed 19 points and a game-best 16 boards for her 14th double-double of the year. The pair combined to hit 15-of-26 field goals and 9-of-12 free throws.
Sophomore Ayanna Holmes added 10 points to lead the Charlotte (25-5) bench scoring and give the Niners a trio in double-figure scoring. Junior Ny Hammonds handed out 10 assists, her fourth outing of the season with double-digit helpers.
Anna Freeman paced the Mountaineers with 20 points before fouling out with 2:02 remaining. Bria Huffman chipped in 11 points off the bench, while the 49ers’ domination on the glass limited the Apps team leaders to five apiece from Kelsey Sharkey and Maryah Sydnor.
In a close game throughout, it was not until the final eight minutes when Charlotte created some separation and put Appalachian State (20-11) away. Facing just a three-point lead on a Courtney Freeman layup at 8:52, senior Jai Forney launched a corner 3-pointer, the only one of the night for the Niners, nearly a minute later. The triple started a game-closing 28-13 spurt to seal the win.
The run was started by a 21-6 surge over the course of four minutes, including an old-fashioned three-point play from Hailey at 5:28 and a steal and layup from Hammonds at 4:21. Freshman Alexis Alexander closed the streak with a pair of charity tosses, lifting the 49ers advantage to 72-54 coming out of the final media timeout at 3:59.
A trey by Farrahn Wood and Anna Freeman pulled the Mountaineers within 13, 72-59, at the 3:28 mark, but then a 7-0 Charlotte counter gave the 49ers their largest cushion at 20, 79-59, with just 1:13 left.
The game opened with Anna Freeman hitting a 3-pointer but then the teams traded baskets for the next five-and-a-half minutes. A Hailey old-fashioned three-point play at 14:23 sparked a 7-0 Charlotte spurt, putting the Niners on top, 15-9, with 13:40 remaining in the period.
Appalachian State then countered with a 7-2 run, slicing the deficit to one again on a KeKe Cooper jumper with 11:26 to play for a 17-16 score. The Niners margin swelled to no higher than five until another 7-0 stretch, featuring a layup from freshman Shequana Harris, gave Charlotte its first double-digit lead at 10, 34-24, with 3:06 to go.
The Mountaineers closed the half on a 9-4 run, as Huffman dropped in the final two baskets, including a tear-dropper just before the buzzer, to cut the 49ers’ intermission lead to five, 38-33.
Charlotte maintained an eight-point lead through the first six minutes of the second half before Raven Gary started a 6-0 App State spurt to cut the margin to two, 45-43, with 13:16 remaining. The 49ers were unable to push their edge to more than six until Forney’s triple igniting the game-closing run.
The Niners will return to action at 2 p.m. Sunday when they play host to Davidson inside Halton Arena in the two teams’ second meeting of the campaign. Charlotte garnered a 69-54 triumph Dec. 21 during the regular-season matchup, also at home, as sophomore Hillary Sigmon paced the 49ers with 13 points.
Josh Feldman will handle all the play-by-play duties for the Charlotte49ers.com live video stream. Stay tuned to the website for further updates on the women’s basketball program during the next three days.
Charlotte vs. Appalachian State Postgame Quotes
Head coach Cara Consuegra
Cara’s opening statement: “We’re happy to get a win. I didn’t feel like it was our best game for 40 minutes but I thought we really started to look like ourselves in the last eight to nine minutes of the game. We finally started to pick up some defensive pressure. We weren’t happy with the way we were letting them shoot the ball. We weren’t happy with how many points we gave up in the first half. We just kept working and finding ways to disrupt them and were able to lockdown on those last eight minutes and really become ourselves again. I thought that we’d come out a little rusty. We haven’t played in 12 days. We had to get over some of that rust and it took us a little bit but in the end we were the team that we wanted to be. I was really pleased with us being able to force 20 turnovers. That’s one of our game goals that we were able to get. Offensively our transition was just fantastic. I wish we could have been able to get a few more stops in the first half to able to go into transition and finishing with 26 fast break points might be our record on the year. These two next to me (Amanda and Jenn) just really brought it today. I was proud of them. I thought they were beasts inside. I thought Amanda in particular, down the stretch really, just stepped up and led the way for us being able to rebound and set the tone and help us be able to get over the hump and then go from there. Anytime you’re at home in the post-season that’s a fun thing. We had a great crowd tonight. We’re really excited to get the win.”
Question: “This is not new to you, playing in the postseason. Do you think that helped you overcome that rust a little quicker because this is a new thing for Appalachian, playing in the postseason?
Amanda: “This is something that we’re used to doing. We’re seniors so we know what it feels like to play in the postseason.”
Jenn: “I agree with Amanda. This is nothing new for us. It’s kind of old to us. This is something new for our younger teammates who’ve never played in the postseason before.”
Question: “What do you try to tell those younger players who have not gone through this?”
Jenn: We talk to them and tell them that it’s one and done for us seniors. We tell them to play for us because we never know when our time is up. They take that and they do a good job with it.”
Question: “Was there something that gave you that spark? It seemed like it came out of nowhere. Was there something you were feeling from them (App State)?
Amanda: “At first I was a little frustrated in the first half. Coach pulled me aside and told me to calm down and keep my composure. I sat for a few minutes and got myself together, went back in, and it started up from there.
Question: “Were their players throwing you off in the beginning?”
Amanda: “No. Not really. I’m used to playing against girls that size.”
Question: “What do you attribute to the way the girls played? You talked about the last eight minutes being solid. What happened during the rest of the game?”
Coach: “I’m not sure. I think it was a little rust. Some of it was a hangover from losing our last game. I felt like there were a lot of similarities to how we played against Temple in the A-10 Tournament. I didn’t feel like we were focused on the game plan. We were making easy mistakes and we hadn’t done that through all of the conference season but we did that in the tournament and I feel like that carried over particularly in the first half of this game. We just tried to regroup and refocus at halftime and encourage them and get on them a little bit, which I do and then we decided to start playing. I though Amanda was a big part of it. She sparked us and when she was able to get going I thought we really fed off her. Defensively we started to pressure them and get back-to-back steals and disruptions and that helped us build our confidence and go from there.”
Question: “This seemed to be a game of streaks between the two teams. Was there anything starting to change in your strategy?”
Coach: “I think for us it was a matter of trying to keep us composed. That can sometimes be a weakness for us. Sometimes that’s on me because I’m a really emotional head coach and I get emotional and I think they get emotional with me. So it’s important for us to be able to keep our composure. We would get a lead and they would cut into it but we were able to hold the lead which I think was really important for our confidence. Just taking timeouts and media timeouts to be able to get our composure and settle ourselves down was key. I give credit to App State because of how they played. They play a lot of different defenses. We knew the triangle and 2 (type of defense) was coming. I would have never thought they’d play that way for 15 straight minutes. We haven’t seen that all year so to prepare for that in a day and a half was tough. Once we figured it out we were fine.”
Question: “You mentioned fast-break points. You like to play a quick game and force turnovers. You also have a clear advantage in the paint. How are you able to balance the quick style (runs, fast-breaks, turnovers) while have these two ladies (Jenn and Amanda) on the floor to get it done down low as well?”
Coach: Our first option is to always to go in transition. We’re really fortunate to have these two post-players run as well as our guards. Amanda is our second fastest on the team and Jenn isn’t that far behind. So we’re fortunate that we can still get them involved when we run in transition. Our team knows that’s the number one option. I will also say that when we were in half court they know that these two are our number one option in half court. Our team just does a great job understanding that at this point and time of the year…what our strengths and weaknesses are. The more touches we can get them (Jenn and Amanda), whether they’re shooting or just creating the attention to get kick outs to our guards the better off we are.”
Question: “Was that part of the plan and the team just didn’t follow through in the first half? Was that why you were upset heading into halftime?”
Coach: “No, honestly I was frustrated about out lack of not boxing out in the first half. (Laughs) It was very disappointing to me because if you look at our team we’re a great rebounding team when we choose to be. We unfortunately go through spans when we don’t chose to box out and that’s why I get frustrated. I did think offensively in the first half we didn’t move the ball very well against their 1-3-1 and because of that we weren’t able to get them (Jenn & Amanda) touches and good shots. But we were able to fix that at halftime.”
Question: “When this streak was going back and forth, what was going through your minds?”
Amanda: “My main focus was to get down on defense and stop them from scoring and play a good defensive game.”Jenn: “I just kept telling myself that I had to get a rebound and as a team we just had to stop them. We wanted to keep our lead. We don’t ever want anybody to just cut our lead or get close within the game because then it’s time to battle.”