ASHEVILLE, N.C. (Wofford SID) – Wofford’s quest for its first NCAA tournament appearance continued Friday with a 75-64 win over ETSU in the semifinal round of the 2021 Ingles Southern Conference Women’s Basketball Championship presented by General Shale Brick at Harrah’s Cherokee Center Asheville.
The fourth-seeded Terriers (13-10) used a big advantage at the free-throw line to advance to Sunday’s title game for the first time in school history. Wofford will matchup against No. 2 Mercer in the noon tipoff, with the winner earning the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tourney.
ETSU scored the first bucket of the game, but Niyah Lutz hit a quick three on offense to get the Terriers started. After a deadball rebound, Jackie Carman hit two free-throws and Alea Harris pitched one up to Lutz who finished with the right hand. The bench came up big early on as Helen Matthews and Annabelle Schultz each scored to make it 11-7 in favor of Wofford at the media timeout. The Bucs retook the lead as the Terriers went cold, but Lutz brought it back to a one-point deficit with her second triple of the quarter. The 1st quarter ended as Hatton made a move around her defender and banked it in for a 17-16 lead.
Alexis Tomlin started things in the 2nd quarter with a left-handed layup, and Carman swished a deep two to increase the lead. After a strong defensive stand, Carman connected on a fading jumper and rounded out the “and-one” with the free-throw. An offensive rebound allowed Harris to drive the baseline and lay it in, also finishing the “and-one” opportunity. Wofford was able to force ETSU into five turnovers in four minutes which caused the Bucs to call a timeout, with the Terriers up 28-20. As ETSU got into foul trouble, Schultz made four free-throws to push the lead to 10. With more points coming from the charity stripe, Wofford held a 38-30 edge at halftime.
Jamari McDavid was forced to sit out the first half in foul trouble, but she came out to start the 3rd quarter with a hook shot that bounced in. Hatton knocked down a trey from Harris and then stepped back into one from deep to keep the lead. MaryMartha Turner hit a fade-away and Hatton made her third in a row for an 8-0 run, stretching the lead to 13. A pair of free ones from Lutz put her in double figures as Wofford led 53-40 with just over four minutes to play in the 3rd. With both teams in a short slump, Tomlin used her sized to grab an offensive rebound and lay it back in. McDavid and Schultz combined for four more before the quarter ended, holding a 61-51 advantage going into the 4th.
Lutz made it third time’s the charm as her first two shots didn’t fall, but she made the final count with a 3-pointer from the wing. Hatton was able to maneuver her way to the rim and Carman sank two free-throws to keep the lead at double digits. As the Bucs tried to come back, Carman bullied her way through the defense and scored a three-point play, giving the Terriers a 73-60 lead with 3:45 to go. Despite an offensive drop off by both teams, Wofford controlled the final three minutes and closed it out to make it to their first SoCon Tournament Championship game in school history.
Lilly Hatton led the way for the Terriers, scoring 15 points, 13 of which came in the second half. Niyah Lutz had 13 and Jackie Carman had 12, while Alexis Tomlin shared a game-high 10 rebounds and Lutz added nine. The team shot 50% (7-14) from 3’s, the first time all season shooting 50% or over in two straight games, and 86.7% (26-30) from the free-throw line.
“Just really happy for our players and our program to get this far. We did a great job getting downhill which led us to the free-throw line and our offensive rebounds helped in that regard as well”, said head coach Jimmy Garrity. “We had a late night preparing for this game. We knew we were going to be in for a tough game, but I’m so proud of our players for locking in today. Whether we end up playing Furman or Mercer, we anticipate a great game.”
Wofford advances to the Southern Conference Tournament Championship game for the first time in program history. The Terriers are set to face off against the Mercer Bears for the third time this season as Mercer took the first two in Macon. Sunday’s championship game is scheduled for a 12:00 pm tip.