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|Panthers get back on winning track|
Ferrum College sophomore post player Kylene Culler (left) defends Christopher Newport University’s Nicole Mitchell (33) during the second half of Saturday’s 65-55 USA South Athletic Conference women’s basketball victory at William P. Swartz Gymnasium. Culler and Mitchell each notched a double-double for her team. Culler finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds, while Mitchell scored 16 points and pulled down 13 rebounds. (Staff Photo by Steven Marsh)
Monday, January 21, 2013
By STEVEN MARSH - Sports Editor
FERRUM -- On Ferrum College's current listing of consecutive conquered women's basketball foes at William P. Swartz Gymnasium, Christopher Newport University (CNU) appears three times.
The Panthers' earlier two slayings of the Captains have nothing in common with Saturday's hoops dispatching in terms of the manner in which it was accomplished.
In a match-up of long-time USA South Athletic Conference rivals and current nationally-ranked NCAA Division III clubs, Ferrum won a grind-it-out, defensive struggle, 65-55, before a packed, boisterous home audience.
The Panthers' victory is its 14th in a row at home dating to last season and comes on the heels of Ferrum's first 2012-13 setback -- a nine-point road loss at Maryville (Tenn.) College last week.
Also, the Panthers' win is their second this season over a nationally-ranked foe.
Earlier this season, they edged Louisiana College, which was ranked in the Top 25 at the time, 97-94, in a game played in Montgomery, Ala.
Ferrum (7-1 in the USA South, 13-1 overall) entered the contest ranked No. 21 in one national poll and No. 22 in another. CNU (6-2 in the USA South, 13-2 overall) was listed No. 16 and No. 24.
The Panthers routed the Captains, 82-58, in regular-season play last year at Swartz Gym, then whipped them a second time at home, 82-56, to capture the USA South championship.
This time, CNU was in the 50s again, but Ferrum didn't come close to the 80s.
In fact, Ferrum's 65 points are a season-worst output today -- prior to Saturday, the 70 points the Panthers tallied in the Maryville setback was the dubious points mark.
"We knew that (CNU) would come out really confident and wanting to beat us. We knew they'd probably play very physical because of what happened last year,' said Ferrum sophomore post player Kylene Culler, one of four double-figure scorers for the Panthers.
"It's nice to win a grind-it-out game. It's been a while since we have competed on defense,' Ferrum bench boss Bryan Harvey said. "We definitely could have played better offensively, but a lot of that had to do with (CNU's) athleticism.'
Ferrum scored the majority of its points from its half-court offensive sets. The Panthers did score in transition, but those points were few.
The two teams combined to make only 17 field goals after intermission and 43 for the game.
But Ferrum limited CNU to 23.5 percent shooting in the second half -- a stanza in which the Panthers enhanced a three-point halftime lead by outscoring the Captains by seven, 34-27.
"I thought we did a really good job defensively; we worked hard (on defense). We had a few breakdowns and when we did, (CNU) scored. But, I thought we did a good job contesting most of their shots,' Harvey said.
"We wanted (CNU) to have to make tough shots, and we battled on the boards (each team finished with 41 rebounds),' Harvey said.
Ferrum its three-point halftime edge into a seven-point lead early in the second half. But, following a time out, CNU responded with an 8-2 run that made the count 39-38.
Then, the Panthers answered with their most-pivotal run of the game -- a 10-0 spurt in which juniors Kayla Goins and Katy Kipps supplied all of the points.
Both Goins and Kipps came came off the bench in a game that saw Ferrum employ only eight players.
Goins, who hit all three of Ferrum's 3-point field goals, swished two of those during the 10-0 run. The first one came after the Panthers had broken a Captains' 2-2-1 full-court trap.
Ferrum's 11-point, 49-38, lead would reach a high of 13 points, 57-44, after a Jacole Hairston lay-up with 4:09 to play.
But, CNU was not finished.
The Captains, playing their eighth straight road game, pulled to within seven points, 57-50, after a basket by Nicole Mitchell with 3:1l showing,
CNU got within seven two more times (59-52 and 61-54), the last of which came with 51 seconds left when Tia Perry, CNU's leading scorer, registered her only field goal of the second half.
Leading 61-55 with 35 seconds left, Ferrum secured the victory when Kipps and Shea Smith (Franklin County) combined to hit four straight free throws.
Because the USA South is employing an unbalanced schedule in women's basketball this season, Saturday's contest is the only regular-season meeting between the Panthers and the Captains.
And it could be the last regular-season contest of the series. Next season, CNU begins play in the Capital Athletic Conference.
Culler, Goins and Hairston each finished with 12 points, and Culler completed a double-double with 12 rebounds.
Mitchell paced CNU with 16 points and 13 rebounds.