Feb. 28, 2012
CHARLOTTE - With 2:26 remaining and her team down by one, Chowan's Ransheda Jennings found herself writhing on the Time Warner Cable Arena floor, clutching her left ankle.
A few moments later, she had to be helped to the bench, left wondering if she was going to have to watch her team try to complete its improbable comeback without her.
"I didn't know if I was going to be able to come back," Jennings said. "But I was determined to come back, even if I was hurting, I was going to try to come back and help the team out."
Less than a minute later, the All-CIAA player was back on the floor, noticeably limping when the clock wasn't running.
But with the game on the line, Jennings had enough life still left to angle her way into the lane and hit a runner after a pass from Talaya Lynch with 4.6 seconds left to lift Chowan to a stirring 51-50 comeback victory over Fayetteville State in the opening round of the CIAA Tournament on Tuesday.
Jennings scored 11 of her 13 points after halftime to help the Northern Division's No. 5 seed rally from a 14-point second half deficit and advance to play division champion Virginia Union at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.
Her bucket capped a 13-4 run to close the game for the Hawks (11-16), who trailed 42-28 with 14:47 remaining. Fayetteville State (12-15) still led 46-38 after a beautiful move by Tashama Banner with 8:24 to go, but the Lady Broncos could not hold onto the lead.
Jennings made a nifty move under the basket to bring Chowan within three, 46-43, with 5:05 to go, and Janelle Murphy buried two foul shots to close the gap to one, 46-45, with 4:25 left.
Banner's pretty turnaround baseline jumper briefly gave the Lady Broncos a three-point edge again with 2:00 remaining, but Murphy drilled an open 3 from the right wing to tie the game at 48 with 1:26 left.
Banner again gave Fayetteville State a lead with two foul shots after she stole the ball from Jennings in the Hawks' backcourt with 36.6 seconds to go, and had a chance to put the Lady Broncos up by more after drawing an offensive foul. But Banner misfired on the front end of an 1-and-1 attempt with 11.1 seconds remaining, and Jennings raced down the floor to hit the winner.
Fayetteville State couldn't get a good look at the basket as time expired.
"The game is 40 minutes," said Fayetteville State coach Eva Patterson-Heath. "Unfortunately, the last couple of minutes, we weren't able to finish."
Banner and Akysia Resper led Fayetteville State with 15 points each. DaQuondra Cuthbertson had nine rebounds to pace the Lady Broncos.
Murphy had 14 points to lead the Hawks while Lynch had 11 and Danielle Coleman added 10 points and eight rebounds. Jennings also had eight rebounds.
Both teams struggled to find their range in the early going, with neither club building more than five-point edge in the opening 10 minutes. Both teams went through lengthy scoring droughts, and the game was tied at 15 with around 5 minutes to go in the period.
But that's when Fayetteville State started taking advantage of Chowan's inability to hang onto the ball. The Hawks had a whopping 16 turnovers in the first half, and the Lady Broncos finally made them pay for it, getting six points from Resper and five from Britney Whitehead to spark a 17-3 run, bringing Fayetteville State from four points behind to 10 ahead, 28-18, with 9 seconds left before the break.
The Lady Broncos consistently disrupted Chowan's offense, holding the Hawks to 25 percent shooting from the field in the opening period, and building a 13-4 advantage in points off turnovers. Fayetteville State also dominated the paint area, outscoring Chowan 12-4.
The beginning of the second half belonged to Fayetteville State, which got five points each from Resper and Banner to spark a 12-2 run and the 14-point lead just 5 minutes into the second period.
Chowan battled back, though, scoring seven straight to creep within six, allowing the Hawks to keep the game within range the rest of the way.
Despite building the large lead in the second half, the Lady Broncos were held to just 25 percent shooting in the second period, and finished hitting just 31 percent of their attempts for the game. Despite scoring 31 points off of 29 Chowan turnovers, the Lady Broncos couldn't close it out.
"The credit goes to players, said Chowan coach Patrick Mashuda, who guided the Hawks to a 19-point comeback in the CIAA Tournament's first round against Livingstone last year. "As a coach, you just kind of hang on and let them go.
"We still had energy. We still had life. Our players just kept plugging."