HIGH POINT, N.C. - Rachelle Coward's three-pointer with 24 seconds left gave No. 5 seed Charleston Southern the lead for good as the Buccaneers rallied to defeat No. 4 seed Campbell, 57-53 in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Advance Auto Parts Women's Basketball Championship, Friday, March 9 at Millis Center on the campus of High Point University. The Buccaneers advance to the Big South Semifinals for the first time since 2002 and will play No. 1 seed Liberty Saturday at 1:30pm on ESPN3 and SportSouth.
Coward finished the day with 20 points, which included five three-pointers, and Lakeitha Alston added 17 for Charleston Southern. Katelyn Bass and Tonisha Baker each posted double-doubles for Campbell. Bass had 19 points and 11 boards, while Baker tallied 15 markers and 12 rebounds. Alston and Kiki Rutledge finished with eight rebounds each for the Bucs, who held Campbell to 29.0 percent from the field in the second half.
The second half had seven lead changes and four ties. Charleston Southern went on an 8-4 run to start the final 20 minutes and tied the game at 29-29. Alston provided five points with two inside buckets and a free throw, and Coward's third triple of the day knotted the game. Baker scored Campbell's first four points of the second stanza. The Buccaneers took their fourth lead of the day on Alston's field goal at 15:36 and moved ahead 36-33 at the 13:08 mark. But Campbell rallied and moved back ahead at 10:34 on Baker's two free throws to make it 39-37. After CSU regained the lead yet again, the Camels went on an 8-2 run to take its final lead at 53-52 with 1:16 left on Kate Cloxton's lone field goal of the day.
After CU missed two free throws that would have pushed its lead to three, Coward drained her fifth and final triple and added two free throws in the waning seconds to give CSU the victory.
Both teams enjoyed early leads in the opening four minutes. CSU went ahead 2-0 only to see Campbell take a 4-2 advantage. The Bucs countered with two three-pointers to go back up 8-4, but the Camels tied it at 8-8 at 15:43 and pulled ahead 12-8 with 14:49 remaining the first half. Bass scored six points in a 2:14 span and 10 overall to help CU enjoy a 14-8 lead. Charleston Southern battled back with two quick scores from Shay Jones and Rutledge to make it a two-point game at 14-12 with 11:58 remaining.
The Buccaneers took their third lead of the first half when Coward buried a baseline three-pointer that put CSU ahead 15-14. But Campbell countered yet again with its own three from Amanda O'Neill to go back ahead 17-15 with 7:30 left in the first half. The Camels went ahead by four, 21-17, on Jazmin Cooper's drive and layup at 4:38 and took their largest lead at six points twice before entering the lockerroom at halftime with a 25-21 lead. The Camels held Charleston Southern without a field goal the final 5:53 of the opening half.
Bass was the leading scorer at the break with 14 points for Campbell, while Baker grabbed nine rebounds. The Camels also blocked six shots and went 11-of-23 from the field (47.8 percent). Charleston Southern was led by Coward's six points but struggled from the floor in the first 20 minutes by hitting 7-of-35 attempts (20.0 percent). CSU helped its cause by turning the ball over just twice while recording eight steals. The first half had five lead changes and two ties.
Early in the second half, Alston surpassed 1,000 career points, while Baker eclipsed 500 career rebounds. Charleston Southern is the first No. 5 seed to reach the Semifinals since Coastal Carolina in 2010. The Bucs also snapped a nine-game losing streak in the Tournament.
Charleston Southern Head Coach Julie Goodenough
"What a great defensive battle! Campbell really came to play tonight. Our players really bought into our defensive game plan. That was two really good offensive teams having to duke it out against really good defensive efforts. I'm proud of our team, we've got some players who are playing a ton of minutes. They kept their focus and kept their intensity down the stretch. They stepped up and knocked down big shots when we needed them to. I couldn't be more proud of them right now."
Campbell Head Coach Wanda Watkins
"Of course we're very disappointed in the loss today. Our team has really worked hard this year and I'm very proud of the progress that we've made in our program and with our team this year. I think the progress we've made started four years ago when we brought these seniors in. It was not the result we wanted, but I think the players put their heart and soul and effort out there today. I credit Charleston Southern, as they made it difficult for us at times. Our turnovers were costly in the first half and I think we were just flat during the second half."