Walters State’s women kept their Tennessee Community College Athletic Association winning streak alive Wednesday night at ‘Z’ Buda Gymnasium but it certainly wasn’t as easy.
The Lady Senators won their 22nd straight league game by coming from seven points down in the last six minutes of regulation to slip past Cleveland State, 74-71, in overtime.
Cleveland State also entered the game unbeaten in conference play and it was a battle from the start before the Lady Senators captured their sixth victory in 10 games. They are now 5-0 in TCCAA action.
The Lady Cougars fell to 3-1 in the league and are now 4-5 overall.
It was the 170th victory in the last 171 conference games for Coach Dave Kragel’s club who used a balanced scoring attack to win.
Haley Comer tossed in 17 points to lead the Lady Senators and former Morristown West star Blayre Schultz added 15 including three key free throws in the final 22 seconds.
Alexis Trice contributed 11 points and Emilee Swafford scored the winners’ only two baskets in overtime and finished with 10. Jamya Rogers had nine and Paris Mullins seven.
Cleveland’s Asjah Harrell poured in 31 points and Britnay Gore added 11 while raking off 16 rebounds for the Lady Cougars.
Kragel said, “We were very fortunate to win this game tonight. Cleveland is a good basketball team and they were undefeated in the league, too, so this was a good win for us. They played hard.
“I thought Emilee did a really good job for us tonight,” he said. “If she hadn’t come through we weren’t dealing with their two big girls inside very well.”
The coach also thought Shultz played well. “Blayre did a nice job tonight. She hit three critical free throws, made some three’s and did a really good job of getting the ball up the floor for us.
“We had balanced scoring and it’s a good thing because we didn’t do a very good job of finding their scorer on defense. But it’s a good win and now we have to go to Volunteer State.”
It looked like the streak was in jeopardy when Harrell stole an inbounds pass and went the length of the floor for a layup that put the Lady Cougars in front 61-54 with 5:53 left in the game.
However, Mullins scored inside and then made two free throws the next trip down the floor. Cassidy Nihoff knocked down a triple for Cleveland at the 4:34 mark, but Comer gunned in a three and then drove for a layup to slice the lead to 64-63 with 3:29 to go.
Shultz put the Lady Senators in front by scoring a lay-in off a give-and-go from Mullins. Harrell then banked in a three from the corner and Mullins scored inside. Both teams had chances to win in the final 32 seconds but nobody scored.
Neither team scored in the first three minutes of the overtime before Swafford hit a layup off a pass from Mullins with 1:46 left and scored again on a pass from Comer at the 54.7 mark.
The teams missed two free throws each before Shultz hit one of two with 22.3 on the clock for a 72-67 lead. Harrell fired in a three and then had a steal and hit a free throw with 10.2 left to get her team within one.
However, Shultz was fouled with 6.2 on the clock and calmly sank both shots for the final margin.
Walters State hit 28-of-69 from the floor for 40.6 percent but was just 8-of-31 on three-point tries. Cleveland was 26-of-65 for 60 percent and made 11-of-25 threes. Cleveland had a 39-35 rebounding edge. Comer had eight boards for the Lady Senators with Shultz and Rogers getting seven each.
The Lady Senators led most of the first quarter before Nihoff’s three gave Cleveland a 16-15 lead at the first break. The Lady Cougars led 32-25 late in the half before the home team scored the final eight to lead by one at intermission.
Comer sandwiched a pair of threes around a bucket from Rogers as the Lady Senators ran their lead to eight early in the third. Two free throws by Shultz made it 52-44 with 1:26 left in the quarter but Harrell scored eight points in the final 1:06 to send the game to the final period tied at 52.
Thrice hit a basket to open the fourth but the visitors ran off nine straight capped by Harrell’s three that made it 61-54 and set the stage for the Walters State rally.
COUNTDOWN TO 1,000
The victory over Cleveland State Wednesday night puts Lady Senators coach Dave Kragel just six away from notching 1,000 in his career. He currently holds a record of 994-285.
The Lady Senators are back in action Saturday when they travel to TCCAA rival Volunteer State. Tip off is set for 3 p.m.