CONWAY The Coastal Carolina and Radford women’s basketball teams stood mostly quiet on their respective sides of the court while some players craned their necks at the video monitor the referees were using to sort out who had just prevailed in a thoroughly wild finish.
The Chanticleers had taken their first lead of the second half with 1:39 to play and then watched at the end as the visiting Highlanders missed a potential game-tying free throw with 3.2 seconds left only to get the rebound, make a quick pass and drain a 3-pointer ... just after the buzzer had sounded.
After huddling together around the video monitor the officials confirmed that Ashley Buckhannon’s final 3 had indeed come just a little too late and formally waved off the shot, much to the relief of the Chants as they celebrated a 52-51 victory inside The HTC Center.
Just as incredible, that makes three straight wins for Coastal (10-12, 5-7 Big South) after losing 10 of their previous 11. It’s the program’s first three-game winning streak in conference play since the middle of the 2009-10 season.
“When I first saw it, I thought it was no good live. But then as [the official review] went longer and longer, the pessimistic side of [me] was waiting for the guillotine to fall,” CCU associate head coach Mark Kost said. “And it’s that way for both teams, but our players were standing there and they saw it, a couple of our coaches saw it on the screen that it was no good and then they obviously made the call.
“It wasn’t a fluke. We played well down the stretch again, and that’s something that this ballclub has done the last couple of games.”
Said Radford coach Tajama Abraham Ngongba: “I’m biased to my team and I felt the shot was off before the buzzer went off, but you’re just kind of waiting to see what’s going to happen. At that moment, the fate’s not in your hands. You’ve just got to go on what the officials are saying.”
Two days after rallying from 17 points down in the second half to win, Coastal found itself down 45-38 with just less than five minutes to play after a free throw by Buckhannon. The Chants surged with the next six points, though, including four straight from junior center Katelyn Connor to draw to within one.
After a Radford basket, sophomore guard AJ Jordan scored on a floater and soon followed with a layup to give Coastal a 48-47 lead.
The Chants wouldn’t relinquish the lead, but they kept the door wide open for the Highlanders (12-8, 7-4). Ayana Avery swished a long 3-pointer from at least five feet beyond the arc to draw the visitors to within 51-50 with 15.8 seconds to go. Junior Angelica Henry then made one of two free throws for Coastal with 10 seconds remaining, giving Radford time to get one more good look on the other end.
Breshara Gordon took it all the way down court and straight at Henry, drawing the foul with 3.2 on the clock. She hit the first free throw and missed the second, but Da’Naria Erwin Spencer corralled the rebound and dished to Buckhannon at the top of the key for the final belated 3.
“We [were] just all praying that it didn’t go in,” Henry said. “Some of us knew, but at the same time everybody started second-guessing it and it just all made us nervous.”
Jordan led Coastal with 14 points, while Henry scored 10 and Connor finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Erwin Spencer led Radford with a game-high 17 points.
After breaking out of its funk against last-place UNC Asheville and following with that comeback win over Longwood, this was an even bigger statement for the Chants against a Highlanders team that entered the day a game behind the Big South leaders.
“It’s kind of the chicken or the egg theory. Do you have to win to gain confidence, or gain confidence to win,” said Kost, who continues to fill in while head coach Alan LeForce rests at home doctor’s orders. “I think it kind of happened both at the same time. We were confident and we won, and maybe we can build on it.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318, or follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/RyanYoungTSN.