February 22, 2014

Bowling buries late three to shock Pfeiffer

BRISTOL, Tenn. – After facing a 12-point first half deficit and a suffocating press defense, the King University women's basketball team used a Chelsea Bowling three-pointer with five seconds left to defeat Pfeiffer University 56-54.

Pfeiffer (4-20, 3-13 Conference Carolinas) had hit a three-pointer of its own just eight seconds earlier as Carter Williams, who had a game-high 15 points, launched a shot from deep in the corner to put the Falcons up by a point. After calling a timeout to set up the inbounds play, the Tornado (16-9, 10-7 Conference Carolinas) found Tia Keitt streaking up the right sideline. The defense collapsed around Keitt as she angled toward the basket and into the lane, allowing Bowling space to set up in the corner for the game-winning shot. Keitt's pass was perfectly timed, and Bowling launched her three-point attempt as Williams desperately tried in vain to alter the shot. The large crowd erupted into a frenzy as Bowling's shot tickled the twine and gave King a 56-54 lead with five seconds to play.

Pfeiffer chose not to use their final remaining timeout, instead hoping to score amidst the chaos. But Williams' final attempt came after the final horn, the King bench spilled onto the floor in celebration, and the Tornado had a dramatic come-from-behind victory in the final seconds that helped King stay alive in the race for third place in the conference standings.

The game was physical from start to finish, with bodies flying for every rebound and players diving for loose balls. Bonnie Durrett and Alley Sprouse had 11 and 10 rebounds, respectively, helping the Tornado outrebound Pfeiffer 49-47. Durrett also blocked three shots on the night. Jalan Harper led King with 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting, also totaling six rebounds and three assists. Tia Keitt had 11 points on a 5-of-7 night from the field and pitched in four rebounds and three assists.

Both teams made 21 shots from the floor, including 10 from three-point range. But the Tornado took 16 less attempts on the night, shooting 35.6 percent to just 28.0 percent for the Falcons. The teams combined to shoot just 14 free throws overall, with both teams shooting below 50 percent.

The game appeared to be a blowout for the Falcons in the early going. After a Keitt jumper to pull King to within 12-10, Pfeiffer went on a 10-0 run and took a 22-10 lead. A three-point basket by Brittany Stringer stopped the 6:14 scoring drought for the Tornado. King chipped away at the Falcons' lead throughout the next five minutes of play. A Kelly Jackson three-point play with 1:34 to play in the half brought King to within five points, then three-pointers by Harper and Keitt gave the Tornado a 30-29 advantage at the break. After the long scoring drought, the Tornado made seven of their last ten field-goal attempts of the half, including the final three, to take the lead.

Neither team led by more than five points in a back-and-forth second half. Pfeiffer nailed two consecutive three-point attempts in a 27-second span to open a 51-50 lead with 2:05 to play. A layup by Jalan Harper gave the lead back to King a minute later, and a made free throw with 31 seconds left set the stage for the final sequence.

With tonight's victory, the Tornado keep alive their hopes for earning the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Conference Carolinas Tournament powered by OrthoCarolina. The Tornado and Mount Olive have identical 10-7 league marks and are tied for third place in the conference standings, just one game ahead of Barton and Lees-McRae in a tie for fifth. Erskine currently sits in sixth place at 8-8 with two games remaining on their schedule, while the other four teams each have one game left. The Tornado could finish anywhere between third and seventh in the conference standings. The top four teams will host opening-round games of the conference tournament on Saturday, March 1.

King's lone remaining regular season contest will tip off in Tigerville, S.C. at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 25 against North Greenville University, which will be the No. 8 seed in the upcoming conference tournament.