March 1, 2014

Tornado advance to conference semifinals with win over Lees-McRae

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Behind Alley Sprouse's 12 points and seven rebounds, a suffocating defense, and another strong team rebounding performance, the King University women's basketball team earned a berth into the semifinals of the Conference Carolinas Tournament powered by OrthoCarolina with a 46-37 victory over Lees-McRae College.

King (17-10) was able to keep Lees-McRae (12-16) out of its offensive rhythm all night, holding the Bobcats to just 24.0 percent shooting from the field. It was the second-lowest opponents' field goal percentage the Tornado have allowed all year. The Bobcats were also forced into 22 turnovers, including three steals from Tia Keitt, by the King defense.

The game began with both teams struggling to find any offensive momentum. A Tayler Collins jumper gave Lees-McRae a 4-2 lead over seven minutes into the contest. At that juncture, the Bobcats were 2-for-10 from the floor, with King's shooting a dismal 1-for-13. The Bobcats would go on to stretch their lead to five points before King began to settle into its offensive gameplan.

The Tornado took their first lead of the game at the 3:03 mark of the first half, then used a Bonnie Durrett three-point basket 90 seconds later to surge ahead of Lees-McRae 15-13. King would never trail again in the contest.

Durrett scored just six points on the night but continued her stellar year on the boards, pulling down seven boards to tie with Sprouse for second on the team. Jalan Harper led the Tornado with nine rebounds. Sprouse led all scorers with 12 points, followed closely by Keitt with 10. Keitt also contributed six rebounds, two assists, and three steals on the evening.

Alyssa Munson and Layana De Souza paced the Bobcats with 10 points each, while Kerri Belcher had a game-high 11 rebounds. The Bobcats forced 19 turnovers of their own and totaled three blocked shots in the contest, but were outscored 22-10 in the paint and outrebounded 47-43.

The gritty Bobcats were able to cut the lead to a single point at the 17:11 mark of the first half, but a Whitney Mitchell layup moments later sparked a 10-1 Tornado run in 5:03 that caused the lead to swell to 30-20 with just over 12 minutes remaining.

An Alley Sprouse layup pushed the lead to 13 points, King's largest of the game, with six minutes to play. But Lees-McRae would not allow another King field goal in the rest of the game and used an 11-3 run to close within five points with 2:07 to play. The Tornado defense was able to keep Lees-McRae from scoring the rest of the way and used four Keitt free throws to reach its final 46-37 advantage.

The Tornado will face top-seeded Limestone College on Wednesday, March 5 in Concord, N.C. in the first of four Conference Carolinas Tournament semifinal games at the Cabarrus County Arena. The Saints were 69-56 winners over No. 8 seed North Greenville University in their first round contest on Saturday. The Tornado and Limestone will tip off at 12:30 p.m. and will be followed by No. 7 Barton vs. No. 3 Mount Olive at 5:30 p.m. Two men's semifinal matchups will also occur at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday at the same location, with the conference championship games to follow on Thursday evening.