Lander reaches another Sweet 16
Win gives Lady Bearcats a school-record 29 victories this year
MORROW, Ga. – No. 6-ranked Lander reached the NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Championship Sweet Sixteen for the second consecutive year on Saturday afternoon by defeating No. 8 USC Aiken 85-68 in the Southeast Regional Tournament semifinals at Clayton State University's Athletics and Fitness Center.
Second-seeded Lander improved to 29-3 overall, a school record for wins in a season, while USC Aiken ended the season at 27-6.
Shannon McKever and Ciara Lyons scored 24 points each to lead the Lady Bearcats. McKever, the Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year, connected on 9-of-12 field goals and 6-of-7 free throws while grabbing six rebounds and getting four steals. Lyons made 8-of-12 shots and 8-of-12 free throws, while snaring eight rebounds. Brittni Johnson added 10 points and five assists.
Kayla Harris led USC Aiken with 15 points and eight rebounds, while Hannah DeGraffinreed and Nakia Pinkney added 14 points each. Triahna Harris contributed four assists and four steals.
Lander won the battle of the boards 44-31.
Down 65-41 with 8:54 left in the game, USC Aiken went on a 17-4 run to slice the Lady Bearcat lead to 69-58 with 3:03 left in the game. The Pacers put Lander on the free throw line for the final three minutes where Lander converted on 16-of-20.
USC Aiken raced out to a 6-1 lead on baskets by Deandra Schirmer, Pinkney and DeGraffinreed in the first three minutes of the game.
Lander cut the margin to 6-3 on a bucket by Keondra Barnes at 16:54. USCA stretched its lead to 10-3 on a putback by Tiffani Moody, only to have Lander counter with a three-point play by McKever.
The Pacers eased out to 15-6 at 13:57 on a two by Harris and a 3 by Lindsay Sundberg, but Lander retaliated with back-to-back baskets by Lyons and McKever to cut the lead to 15-10 at 11:45.
The Lady Bearcats scored six unanswered points on a shot underneath by McKever, and a putback and fast break by Lyons to get within 17-16 at 8:47.
The Lady Bearcats forced the game's first tie at 18-18 on a Lyons layup then went on a 10-2 run to take a 28-20 lead with 4:28 left on a steal and layup by Lyons.
The Pacers came within 30-26 on three pointer and free throw by Pinkney with 1:50 left, then Lander went on a 7-0 run to take a 37-26 lead with 31 seconds left in the half on a layup by Brianna Webb, a steal and layup by Lyons and a fastbreak layup by Tasheba Butler.
After trading baskets to open the second half, Lander scored six unanswered points on a pair of Johnson free throws, a basket by Lyons and a putback by McKever to go up 45-30 with 18:05 remaining in the game.
The Lady Bearcats followed with a 9-2 run and earned their first 20-point advantage at 54-34 on a Jasmine Judge 3-pointer with 12:11 left in the game. Lander earned its biggest margin at 24 points when Johnson's fastbreak layup at 9:27 gave the Bearcats a 63-39 lead.
For the game, Lander was 28-of-62 for 45.2 percent, but only made 1-of-20 3-pointers. The Lady Bearcats sank 28-of-42 free throws for 66.7 percent.
USCA made 20-of-53 floor shots for 37.7 percent, including 4-of-20 threes for 20 percent. The Pacers connected on 24-of-29 foul shots for 82.8 percent.