Late basket lifts Mars Hill to 69-68 win over Tusculum

Jasmine Queen tied her career high with nine rebounds
Jasmine Queen tied her career high with nine rebounds

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- A putback basket by Sydney Comer with 38.7 seconds left was the difference as Mars Hill University edged Tusculum College 69-68 in South Atlantic Conference women's basketball action Wednesday night at Pioneer Arena.

Paige Chavis scored a game-high 24 points and had seven rebounds for the Lions (7-20, 5-16 SAC), who trailed by 15 points early in the second quarter and led by no more than two points in the second half except for a brief three-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

Kasey Johnson led the Pioneers (6-19, 5-16 SAC) with 22 points, seven rebounds and four assists, but foul trouble plagued Tusculum all night as five players finished the game with at least four personal fouls. Mars Hill finished 15-for-27 from the foul line while Tusculum was 5-for-8 at the stripe in the game.

The game featured 10 ties and 15 lead changes, with the final coming on Comer's putback with 38.7 seconds left. Tusculum had two shots for the win in the final 10 seconds, but both shots were off-target and the Lions escaped with just their second conference road win of the season.

Maelyn Head finished with 13 points and seven rebounds for the Pioneers, including the go-ahead three-pointer that gave Tusculum its last lead of the night at 68-67 with 1:25 to go. After a missed three-pointer by the Lions' Chavis, Tusculum looked for an insurance basket but instead turned the ball over on an offensive foul, leading to Comer's winning hoop.

Tusculum used an early 10-0 run to take a 12-5 lead on a three-pointer by Head with 4:59 left in the first quarter. After the Lions cut the margin to 15-13 on a pair of free throws by Destini Reed with 3:11 left in the quarter, the Pioneers closed the period with an 8-1 run that was capped by another three from Head with 19 seconds left.

The Pioneers led 23-14 at the end of the first quarter, and took its largest lead of the game at 30-15 on a three-pointer from Johnson with 8:15 left in the first half. However, the Pioneers would go 1-for-6 from the field with six turnovers as the Lions would go on a 15-2 spurt to pull within 32-30 on a basket by Chavis with 1:42 left in the half.

Tusculum led 36-34 at halftime as Johnson paced all players with 11 points and six rebounds. Chavis and Aliyah Farmer had 10 points apiece in the opening half for the Lions, who shot 41.4 percent (12-for-29) from the field in the opening half. The Pioneers shot an even 50 percent (15-for-30) from the lead in the first half, including 5-for-13 from three-point range.

The third quarter was a see-saw affair, featuring eight ties and seven lead changes and no lead larger than four points. Consecutive baskets from Johnson gave the Pioneers their largest lead of the half at 50-46 with 2:13 left in the quarter, but a three-pointer from Chavis with 14 seconds left sent the Lions to the fourth quarter with a 52-51 lead.

In the fourth quarter, Mars Hill went ahead 54-51 on a layup by Jenny Edwards with 9:22 left, but back-to-back buckets from Monica Roberts put the Pioneers back on top 57-56 with 8:01 to play. Chavis gave the Lions a 59-57 lead on a putback with 6:03 to go, but Johnson hit a three-pointer to spark an 8-2 Tusculum run that was capped by a Jasmine Queen hoop for a 65-61 lead with 3:35 to go.

A three-point play from Chavis cut the margin to 65-64 with 3:07 to go, and a foul shot by Edwards with 2:16 left tied the game at 65-65. After a miss from the Pioneers, Chavis scored with 1:42 left to push the Lions back on top 67-65, but Head restored the Pioneers' lead with her third three-pointer of the night with 1:25 to go.

Queen also finished in double figures for the Pioneers with 11 points while matching her career high with nine rebounds. Roberts shot 3-for-5 from the field and finished with a season-high eight points in 13 minutes off the bench, while Kristen Atwell equaled her season high with six points in nine minutes of playing time.

Farmer finished with a double-double for the Lions with 16 points and 10 rebounds to go along with four blocked shots. Edwards had 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists while Comer had eight points, six rebounds and a game-high six assists for Mars Hill.

The Lions finished the game at 41.3 percent (26-for-63) from the field and 2-for-11 from three-point range, but had 21 second-chance points courtesy of 17 offensive rebounds. Tusculum cooled off slightly in the second half but finished at 47.5 percent (28-for-59) from the field and 7-for-21 from three-point range. The Pioneers were outrebounded 40-37 by the Lions and had 18 turnovers to 14 by Mars Hill.

Tusculum will conclude its regular season on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Queens University of Charlotte. A Pioneer victory would secure a berth in next week's South Atlantic Conference Tournament, while Queens, Mars Hill and Coker all remain in the hunt for the final spot in the tournament field.