CONWAY — For all their offensive struggles, sluggish spurts and inconsistencies this season, the Coastal Carolina women’s basketball team is nevertheless a resilient bunch and they showed that again Saturday.
For the second time in two and a half weeks, the Chanticleers rallied from a 17-point second-half deficit to win. For just the first time in program history – or at least according to records that date back to 1986 – they overcame a double-digit halftime deficit. And after a forgettable stretch of 10 losses in 11 games, they’ve come back to win five of their last six now.
Sophomore guard Shatia Cole scored the game-winning layup with 8.1 seconds remaining in overtime to cap the latest stunning rally and deliver the Chants a 70-67 win over Gardner-Webb inside The HTC Center.
“I don’t know if you can explain it,” CCU associate head coach Mark Kost said. “For the first 30 minutes, we were probably written off for dead again in a lot of eyes, but they believe. We just talked about playing with urgency – crazy urgency – down the stretch to try to get back in the game, and then once we got it where it was a one possession game, now we’ve got to show poise. And we did that.”
Down 31-21 at halftime, Coastal (12-13, 7-8 Big South) saw its deficit balloon to 44-27 with 12:15 left in the second half. The Chants were still down 15 with less than seven minutes remaining before starting to chip away at the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ advantage.
Gardner-Webb (11-14, 5-10) scored its last field goal of regulation with a little more than four minutes remaining to make it a 58-48 game before Coastal really started surging. Junior guard Angelica Henry knocked down a short jumper, junior center Katelyn Connor hit two free throws on the same possession following a foul away from the ball, junior guard Kayla Cook soon followed with two free throws of her own, and after the visitors hit one from the line Cook sank a 3-pointer from the right wing to make it a 59-57 game with 2:22 to play.
After a couple of wasted possessions, it looked like Coastal’s rally might have run out of steam, but Cole stole a pass near midcourt and raced for an uncontested layup to tie the score with 18.5 seconds left. Gardner-Webb would miss twice on the other end as the game went to overtime.
“We’re just not giving up,” Cole said of the Chants’ mentality of late. “I mean, we get down a lot, but we have confidence in each other and ourselves.”
With the game knotted at 67 in the waning moments of overtime, Coastal called a timeout to draw up one more play with 10.7 seconds on the clock. Forced to play with a four-guard lineup by that point due to foul trouble, Kost called for a play the team hadn’t practiced with that personnel grouping. But it went just as planned nonetheless as Cook took the inbounds pass and tossed it to Cole as she cut through the lane for an easy – and decisive – layup. Cole, a Myrtle Beach High School product, added a foul shot on the play for good measure, and the Runnin’ Bulldogs settled for a long heave on the other end as time expired.
“Coach drawed it up in like the last 10 seconds of the timeout and we executed,” Cole said.
Henry finished with a game-high 27 points and seven rebounds, Cook had 13 points and seven boards, Connor added 12 points and Cole made her mark late while finishing with nine points and five steals. And for another entry in the believe-it-or-not file, Coastal’s record book also shows this as being the first overtime win of any kind in program history (at least back to 1986).
“Our kids just showed resiliency,” said Kost, who is coaching the team while head coach Alan LeForce rests on doctor’s orders. “That’s all you can ask. We had kids in the locker room that were crying. What that tells me is they’re fully invested in what they’re doing.”
Gardner-Webb (11-13) – Jessica Heilig 6-14 0-0 12, Candace Brown 3-8 1-2 7, Alicia Quinn 1-3 2-4 4, Catrina Green 1-6 4-8 6, Mayhana Dunovant 4-12 2-7 13, Doreen Richardson 1-1 2-2 4, Lana Doran 3-9 0-3 9, Olivi Parker 4-5 3-5 12. Totals 23-58 14-31 67.
Coastal Carolina (11-13) – AJ Jordan 3-8 0-1 6, Shatia Cole 3-11 3-3 9, Angelica Henry 8-16 8-10 27, Alexx Puckett 1-4 0-0 3, Katelyn Connor 4-11 4-4 12, Kayla Cook 4-9 4-7 13, Savanah Pippin 0-0 0-0 0, DJ Hunter 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 23-62 19-25 70. Halftime–GW 31-21. 3-Point Goals–CCU 5-12 (Jordan 0-1, Cole 0-2, Henry 3-5, Puckett 1-1, Cook 1-3), Gardner-Webb 7-19 (Quinn 0-1, Dunovant 3-8, Doran 3-9, Parker 1-1) Fouled Out–Connor, Parker. Rebounds–CCU 39 (Henry, Cook 7), Gardner-Webb 49 (Green 15). Assists–CCU 14 (Henry 4), Gardner-Webb 14 (Brown 7) Total Fouls–CCU 26, Gardner-Webb 23 Att.–N/A.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318 or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/RyanYoungTSN.