Tusculum rallies to defeat Coker in final minute, 60-55

Tusculum rallies to defeat Coker in final minute, 60-55

HARTSVILLE, S.C. --- Tusculum College overcame a 13-point first-half deficit to defeat Coker College 60-55 in South Atlantic Conference women's basketball action Saturday afternoon at the DeLoach Center.

Kasey Johnson scored the go-ahead field goal with 37.4 seconds left in the fourth quarter, and the Pioneers (6-16, 5-13 SAC) added four free throws in the closing seconds to rally for the win and move into sole possession of the eighth and final postseason spot in the SAC standings, one game ahead of Coker, Mars Hill and Queens with four games remaining in the regular season.

Johnson led Tusculum with 15 points and six rebounds, while Callie Patterson had 10 points and five boards as the Pioneers shot 52.4 percent from the field in the second half after hitting just 34.5 percent in the first half. Overall, Tusculum shot 42.0 percent (21-for-50) from the floor and shot 15-for-22 at the foul line, while Coker struggled to a 10-for-24 performance at the stripe.

Sydney Shull and Trai Johnson shared the team lead in scoring for the Cobras (5-18, 4-14 SAC) with 12 points apiece, with Johnson leading all players with seven rebounds. After shooting a sizzling 68.2 percent (15-for-22) from the field in the first half, the Cobras cooled off sharply in the second half to 22.2 percent (6-for-27).

After rallying to take the lead late in the third quarter, the Pioneers extended their advantage to 54-49 on a putback by Kristen Atwell with 3:56 left. However, several second-chance opportunities for the Cobras would pay off as Johnson converted a three-point play with 59 seconds left to give Coker a 55-54 lead.

Following Johnson's go-ahead basket, the Cobras had three chances to tie or take the lead in the final 30 seconds but misfired on all three attempts. Foul shots by Makakala and Patterson in the closing seconds enabled the Pioneers to finish off the sweep of the season series with the Cobras.

Coker fell behind 11-8 late in the first quarter, but scored six unanswered points to take a 14-11 lead at the end of the opening period. After the Pioneers tied the score at 14-14 on a three-pointer by Sydney Wilson in the opening seconds of the second quarter, the Cobras went on a 15-2 run to take a 29-16 lead on a three-point play by Johnson with four minutes to go in the half. A basket just before the half by Tusculum's Jasmine Williams left the Coker lead at 34-25 at intermission.

Shull led all players with nine points in the first half for Coker, while Johnson had seven points and three rebounds. Jasmine Queen paced the Pioneers with eight points in the opening half, while Johnson had six points and four boards.

The second half was a different story for the Pioneers, who came out of the locker room and scored the first 10 points to take a 35-34 lead on a three-pointer by Wilson with 6:39 left in the third quarter. After Coker regained the lead, the Pioneers came back and went ahead 43-41 on a layup by Atwell with 1:09 left in the third quarter. Tusculum carried a 45-44 lead into the fourth quarter courtesy of a Makakala bucket with just over a minute remaining.

Tusculum looked to pull away in the fourth quarter as two free throws by Patterson and two from Maelyn Head pushed the Pioneers on top 51-48 with 5:52 remaining. Another free throw by Head gave Tusculum a 52-49 lead with 3:56 left, then Atwell scored on the rebound of Head's second foul shot to give the Pioneers their biggest lead at 54-49.

Atwell played eight minutes off the bench for the Pioneers and finished with a season-high six points, while Head added five points, two rebounds and a pair of steals. Makakala filled the scoresheet for the Pioneers with six points, two rebounds, five assists and four steals.

Coker finished the game with a 39-26 edge in rebounding over the Pioneers, and had 11 offensive rebounds. The Cobras turned the ball over 19 times which the Pioneers turned into 13 points, while Tusculum committed just 12 turnovers in the game, which had six ties and 11 lead changes.

Tusculum will be back home for its next three games, starting Wednesday night at 6 p.m. against Carson-Newman. Wednesday is "Pack the Arena" Night as well as "Black Out" Night as TC fans are asked to wear Black to the game. Gate proceeds from the game will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.