LaGrange College comeback bid falls just short In final seconds against Piedmont

Published 8:40 pm Saturday, February 25, 2023

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BEREA, Ky. – No. 2 Seed LaGrange (20-7, 13-3 CCS) battled back in the final 25 seconds and nearly overcame a six-point deficit before falling 75-73 to No. 3 Seed Piedmont (17-10, 11-5 CCS) in a Collegiate Conference of the South (CCS) Semifinal and an NCAA Division III women’s basketball game on Saturday, February 25.

Sophomore guard Zyhia Johnson (Homerville, Ga.) led the way for the Panthers with a double-double of 17 points and 10 boards along with three steals while senior forward Breonna Glover (Macon, Ga.) went 5-of-7 from the field for 15 points and hauled in six rebounds.

Freshman guard Laila Battle (Smyrna, Ga.) put up 13 points, four caroms and two assists in 37 minutes and a rare start and freshman forward Amanda McLendon (Orlando, Fla.) pulled down eight boards. Freshman forward Skylar Edwards (Canton, Ga.) finished with four rebounds, three blocks and three points and sophomore guard Britney Chavez (Birmingham, Ala.) chipped in with eight points.

In a matchup of teams right behind each other in the CCS standings neither would be able to gain a significant advantage as they battled through a lead change and four ties over the first 5:38, the last deadlocking them at 9-9. A pair of free throws by Glover delivered that tie and sparked a 6-0 run that flipped the script and gave LC a 13-9 lead by the 1:45 mark.

The Lions would answer with four straight, capped by a traditional three-point play by Colby Reed to knot it up again, this time at 13-13 with 35 seconds left in the first. Sophomore guard Britney Chavez (Birmingham, Ala.) then drilled a go-ahead triple 13 seconds later to retake the lead and steer the Panthers to a narrow 16-15 lead at the end of one.

It would continue to be a tight-knit affair throughout the second period as well as PC tied it with a free throw before Johnson drove the lane to give LaGrange back the lead at 9:15. They would hang on to that advantage with a “bend but don’t break” defense as the Lions stayed within striking distance, never allowing the Panthers to pull ahead by more than three points over the next 4:27.

That would see LaGrange holding a narrow 24-23 advantage before freshman guard Emerson Johnson (Kennesaw, Ga.) was fouled on a three-pointer and knocked down all three at the line as part of an 8-3 run that left the Panthers with a 32-26 lead by the 2:45 mark. From there the Lions would score eight of the final 10 points to pull even at 34-34 at the break.

Piedmont would come out with a 5-2 burst to open the third to take a 39-36 lead just 1:43 in but LC answered right back with a 10-3 run fueled by four different scorers to pull ahead 46-42. It would remain a tightly contested affair, however, as the Lions clawed their way back to a 48-48 deadlock by the 1:53 mark.

Sophomore guard Kendra Roberts (Warner Robins, Ga.) then broke a drought of 1:46 as she laid it up and in with nine seconds left and a Destiny Deetz free throw at the other end with no time on the clock sent the teams to the fourth with a narrow one-point margin.

It wouldn’t stay that way long, however, as Riley Bryan and Deetz hit back-to-back layups to start the final frame and take a 53-50 lead. Glover then took matters into her own hands with six straight points as part of an 8-2 run that took them from down three to up by that margin, 58-55, with 6:28 left.

From there the tide would begin to turn as Piedmont put together their own 8-2 stretch to pull back ahead 63-60 with 3:41 on the clock. A pair of layups sandwiched around a Nakiyah Washington free throw then knotted it up at 64-64 with two minutes to play before the Lions did damage at the foul line as they went 8-of-8 over the 1:27 to take a 72-66 lead with 33 seconds left.

The clubs would trade free throws eight seconds later, leaving a seemingly insurmountable six-point spread but it would be the wildest 25 seconds of the season.  Fouled on a three-point attempt with 21 seconds to play Chavez knocked down all three to cut the lead in half and the Lions, so adept at the line minutes before, proceeded to miss back-to-back attempts.

Senior guard Jada Brown (Macon, Ga.) took advantage with a layup with nine seconds left to cut it to one and an immediate foul sent Washington to the line just a second later. She drained both to push back to a three-point advantage and Johnson drew a foul at the other end to earn her own trip to the charity stripe with seven seconds on the clock.

She would hit only 1-of-2 to leave it at a two-point margin but PC would seemingly throw the ball away on the ensuing inbounds. Ruled that the ball was touched, the Lions got it back but pressure from the Panthers forced a turnover anyway as the ball skittered out of bounds at midcourt. Left with four seconds and a chance to tie or take the lead, LaGrange got the ball in to Johnson on the right side where she drove inside the arc and lofted a jumper that just went awry as Piedmont narrowly escaped with the 75-73 victory.

Washington just missed a double-double for the Lions as she finished with 11 points and nine boards and Reed had 12 points, six caroms and a pair of steals. Deetz wasn’t far behind with 13 points and eight rebounds and Bryan notched 11 points and nine caroms. Laken Stiles and Bently Chronic rounded things out with eight and seven points, respectively.

With one of the best seasons in program history, LaGrange will now await word on a potential NCAA Division III Tournament berth. That field will be announced at 2:30 p.m. on Monday, February 27 on