ANDERSON, S.C. --- Alexy Mollenhauer scored a game-high 24 points as third-seeded Anderson withstood a pair of fourth-quarter runs by sixth-seeded Tusculum to come away with a 69-62 victory in the South Atlantic Conference women's basketball quarterfinals at the Abney Athletic Center on Wednesday night.
Mollenhauer shot 7-for-9 from the field, including 4-for-5 from three-point range, and hit all six of her foul shots for the Trojans (20-9), who advance to play second-seeded Wingate in the semifinals on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Timmons Arena in Greenville, South Carolina.
Sydney Wilson scored 17 points and Lovely Locklear added 15 for the Pioneers (16-11), who trailed by 15 points late in the third quarter and by seven points with 3 1/2 minutes left before cutting the deficit to two points each time. Kasey Johnson added 11 points for Tusculum, which played most of the game without starting point guard Mia Long after she sustained an eye injury early in the second quarter.
Alexis Dillard added 13 points and six rebounds for the Trojans, with Kaylee Koerperich adding 11 points and six boards as Anderson outrebounded Tusculum 35-27 and shot an even 50 percent (23-for-46) from the field. Anderson was 19-for-22 from the foul line in the game, while Tusculum shot 5-for-8 from the stripe as a team.
Tusculum led briefly at 3-2 on a three-pointer by Wilson just over a minute into the game, but Anderson regained the lead on the strength of shooting 6-for-10 from the field in the first quarter. Mollenhauer hit all four of her field-goal attempts in the opening quarter and scored 11 points as the Trojans led 20-16 at the end of the first period.
A three-pointer by Tusculum's Callie Patterson cut the Anderson lead to 23-21 with 6:42 to go in the first half, and the Pioneers moved within two points on two more occasions in the quarter but could not gain the lead as Tusculum shot 29.4 percent (5-for-17) from the field in the period and was outrebounded by Anderson by a 15-8 margin.
Anderson led 33-28 at halftime as Mollenhauer had 11 points, Taylor Hair added six and Dillard and Koerperich five apiece. Wilson was the top scorer in the first half for Tusculum with seven points, with Long going 3-for-3 from the floor for six points before departing. The Pioneers shot 41.4 percent (12-for-29) from the field in the first half while Anderson connected on 44 percent (11-for-25) from the field and 10-for-12 at the foul line.
The Trojans' lead swelled to double figures for the first time on two foul shots by Dillard with 2:38 to go in the third quarter, part of a 14-3 run by Anderson that gave the Trojans their largest lead of the night at 54-39 on a three-pointer by Mollenhauer with 1:05 to play in the third quarter. Wilson hit a three-pointer in the final minute as the Pioneers headed to the final period trailing 54-42.
The start of the fourth quarter belonged to Locklear, as she made her first four shots on a three-pointer, jumper, three-point play and layup to singlehandedly bring the Pioneers within 54-52 with 7:49 left. Tusculum forced Anderson to miss its first five shots of the quarter and had possession with a chance to tie, but Madison Baggett came up with a steal and layup to break the run and give the Trojans a 56-52 lead with 6:57 left.
Anderson would take a 59-52 lead on a foul shot by Ace Easter with 5:15 to play, and a basket by Hair with 3:33 left gave the Trojans a 61-54 advantage. Tusculum would claw back one more yime as Johnson connected on a layup and Wilson followed with a three-pointer to bring the Pioneers within 61-59 with 2:18 left. Tusculum got a stop with 1:43 to go, but turned the ball over in the front court while looking for the tie.
Another turnover by the Trojans gave the Pioneers possession in the final minute, but blocked shot by Easter and a steal by Baggett led to a Dillard layup with 50 seconds left and a 63-59 Anderson lead. Four foul shots by Mollenhauer and two by Easter in the final 30 seconds offset a Johnson free throw and a Locklear layup as the Trojans defeated the Pioneers for the second time in three all-time meetings in the SAC tournament.
Patterson finished with seven points in 15 minutes off the bench for the Pioneers, while Maddie Sutton grabbed a game-high seven rebounds in 19 minutes of playing time. Tusculum finished the game 7-for-17 from three-point range, and outscored Anderson 24-15 off the bench.
Hair contributed eight points and six rebounds in 12 minutes off the bench for the Trojans, who turned the ball over 20 times but allowed the Pioneers to score just 11 points off the miscues. Tusculum had 14 turnovers as a team, which the Trojans converted into 15 points.
Tusculum's 16-11 record represents a 9 1/2 game improvement from the 2016-17 season, as the Pioneers qualified for the SAC Tournament for the first time since the 2012-13 season when Tusculum lost to Anderson in the championship game.