HARROGATE, Tenn. – Led by the junior trio of Sierra Simpson, Lesley Woods and Jasmine Franklin, sixth-seeded Anderson University women’s basketball upset No. 3 seed Lincoln Memorial and advanced to the semifinals of the 2014 Food Lion South Atlantic Conference Tournament with a 71-64 overtime victory, Wednesday evening at Tex Turner Arena.
The win places the Trojans into the semifinals of the annual postseason tournament for the second-straight season, after winning the conference tournament a season ago. AU has now won four-straight conference tournament games, moving to 16-13 on the season. Lincoln Memorial, which entered the quarterfinals as the No. 9 team in the latest Southeast Region poll released on Wednesday, likely ends its season with a 16-11 record.
Simpson eclipsed the 20-point mark for the first time in her career, scoring 20 points with seven rebounds in a career-high 43 minutes of action. The 5-foot-6 guard was 6-of-11 from the field, including a perfect 8-for-8 performance from the free throw line, while posting five assists. Woods buried four 3-pointers en route to 14 points with five assists and five rebounds. Franklin, who came off the bench in the first period, dropped in 13 points.
The Trojans won the battle of the boards, 43-33, as SAC All-Freshman honoree Alexis Dillard grabbed a game-high nine rebounds with seven coming on the defensive side. Lincoln Memorial, which led the SAC in total rebounds in conference contests this season, finished the game well below its league average of 43.7.
“I’m so proud of our effort tonight, this was a tremendous win on the road,” Anderson head coach Jimmy Garrity said. “I was really happy with our defensive effort, especially on the boards. To out-rebound LMU by 10 and only give up five second-chance points was big. The players followed the game plan perfectly. Our post players did a great job against their posts and Sierra did a great job leading us on the floor.”
LMU recorded four players in double figures as starters Samantha Satterlee and Aisjah Roan totaled 15 points apiece, while Britney Guy and Katrina Ottesen, who came off the bench, tallied 12 points and 10 points, respectively. Forward MaRanda Boddie pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.
Cold-shooting by the Lady Railsplitters in the first half proved to be the difference as LMU posted a 0-for-7 mark from behind the 3-point line in the opening 20 minutes. The Trojans took advantage of the misfires and shot 46.2 percent (12-for-26) from the field, including a 4-for-9 mark from behind the arc in the first period.
Anderson came out firing in the opening four minutes of play, taking a 10-2 lead to begin the game as the spurt was capped off by 3-pointers from Woods and freshman Heather Jankowy. The Trojans maintained their lead for the entire period, taking their largest advantage of 11 when sophomore Madison Floyd joined Woods and Jankowy as Trojans with treys for the game, putting Anderson ahead, 29-18, with 1:50 remaining in the half.
A free throw shot by Roan would make the score 29-19 as the teams went into halftime. The 19 points by LMU marked the second time this season the Trojans have kept an opponent under 20 points for a half, after holding Newberry to just 18 points on Dec. 7.
The visitors began the second half just as quickly as they did in the first one. After LMU brought the score within 10 at 31-21, AU began an 8-0 run, highlighted by Jankowy’s final 3-pointer of the night, as she finished her first conference tournament game of her career with six points. Sandwiched around the Jankowy trey was five points from Franklin, knocking down two jumpers to begin and close the run. After Guy snapped the run with a jumper, Franklin answered right back and evened Anderson’s largest lead of 18 at 41-25 with 12:30 remaining.
Despite the near-20 point advantage, LMU began to slowly chip into its deficit. The Lady Railsplitters began an 11-0 run, headlined by a 3-pointer from Ottesen, bringing the score to 41-34. Following a Simpson lay-in, Satterlee added another 3-pointer, bringing the home side within six points.
LMU continued its late comeback and eventually drew the score even at 51-51 with 1:36 remaining when Satterlee recorded a lay-in. Following the basket, the Trojans were sent to the line four times with just over a minute remaining as Simpson and Floyd made two free throws a piece in the span, giving AU a three-point lead with 22 seconds remaining.
On Lincoln Memorial’s final possession, it looked for its hot-shooter in Ottesen, who knocked in a long-range jumper to even the score at 55-55 with 14 ticks left. Anderson was unable to find a game-winner in the final possession of regulation as Franklin missed a lay-in at the buzzer.
Woods kicked off the final five minutes with a 3-pointer, but Guy immediately answered with a trey of her own, pushing the score even at 58-58. After the teams traded baskets with the tally moving to 64-64, the Trojans went on a 7-0 run to close the door on the Lady Railsplitters. Anderson was a perfect 6-for-6 in the final 1:30 from the free throw line, as the clutch foul shooting surrounded an essential and the final 3-pointer by Woods on the night to seal the road victory.
“We showed a lot of toughness in overtime, especially stepping into two charges,” Garrity said. “Our execution and free throw shooting in the overtime period was really good.”
The Trojans closed the contest 16-for-20 from the charity stripe, marking the ninth-straight game with a free throw percentage over 70 percent.
Anderson continues its tournament run on Saturday when it squares off with second-seeded Wingate, which eliminated No. 7 seed Newberry, 78-52, Wednesday evening. The semifinal matchup from Furman’s Timmons Arena is scheduled for 8 p.m.