DAVIDSON The Davidson women's basketball team took a huge step toward the first conference championship in school history with a 61-54 victory against the Appalachian State Mountaineers on Saturday at Belk Arena.
It was the eighth straight victory for the Wildcats (19-7, 15-2) and set a school record for conference wins in a season. The win also snapped a 10-game winning streak for the Mountaineers (21-4, 15-2), who hadn't lost since a 55-52 setback Jan. 15 against the Wildcats.
Junior guard Katrina Chiemeka poured in a career-high 19 points, including 16 in the second half, as Davidson took control of its own destiny in Southern Conference play. Both teams have three games remaining in the regular season.
Chiemeka connected on six of seven shots in the second half and emerged as the hero after Appalachian State focused its defensive efforts on Davidson's top scorers - Laura Murray and Sofia Aleksandravicius.
Either Murray or Aleksandravicius had led the team in scoring in 24 of the first 25 games, but when Davidson's 11-point, second-half lead had evaporated and the Mountaineers tied the score at 46 on a Raven Gary 3-pointer, it was Chiemeka who took - and made - the key shots down the stretch.
"We knew they'd play a triangle-and-two (defense) on Sofia and Laura, and that other people would be open," said Chiemeka, who entered the game averaging just 4.4 points. "It's not my role on this team to score, but I didn't hesitate. My teammates told me to shoot."
Chiemeka's tough shot in the lane broke the tie with 3 minutes, 50 seconds left. Amanda Ottaway - who finished with 11 points - scored on a nice pass from Aleksandravicius on the next possession, setting the stage for back-to-back long-range jumpers by Chiemeka
Appalachian State never led, but it had two shots to tie the score or take the lead during the final 1:45. Davidson, like it has done much of the season, clamped down, forcing missed shot after missed shot. Appalachian State connected on just 23 of 70 shots (33 percent). "We played really well defensively," said second-year coach Michele Savage. "I'm very pleased with that."
Maryah Sydnor had 17 points for Appalachian State, and Courtney Freeman and Gary finished with 13 and 10, respectively. Aleksandravicius and Murray had nine rebounds apiece for Davidson.