PEMBROKE, NC - After mounting a rally from an early double-digit deficit, taking a couple of leads and pulling within a single point late, the Fayetteville State women's basketball team's last-second attempt at a win fell short.
The Lady Broncos lost 47-46 to UNC Pembroke at the English E. Jones Center on Wednesday night in a low-scoring affair. FSU shot just 24 percent (14 of 58) from the field and 1 of 16 (6 percent) from 3-point range while tasting defeat for the first time.
"There are nights like that," Coach Eva Patterson-Heath said. "You just hope the majority of your players are not in that kind of slump."
The Lady Broncos (2-1) had a couple of opportunities to take the lead in the final minute. De'Aira Smith made one of two foul shots with 25 seconds remaining to reduce a two-point deficit to 47-46. After the Lady Braves' Jasmine Huntley missed the front end of a one-and-one on the other end, FSU drove quickly to the hoop. Akysia Resper's layup attempt missed, and the Lady Broncos were forced to intentionally foul.
Both of Kierra Haney's foul shots missed the mark. Then, with 0.9 seconds remaining, an illegal screen gave FSU the ball back for one last chance. An attempt to lob the ball into Deja Middleton bounced off the 6-foot-5 senior center's hands, though, ending the game.
"I got a hand on it," Middleton said. "I should've used two hands instead of one."
Middleton grabbed 15 of her 17 rebounds in the second half. She had 10 offensive rebounds in the game and a team-high 14 points. Those boards and put-backs enabled the Lady Broncos to make a run after a sluggish start.
UNC Pembroke scored the game's first eight points. The Lady Broncos didn't convert their first shot from the field until Deja Middleton hit a jumper at the 14:03 mark of the first half.
"We didn't bring the fire early," Patterson-Heath said. "Pembroke kind of punched us, they hit first."
At that point, the score was 11-6; Lady Braves, a margin UNCP grew to 17-6 at the 11:11 mark. This was immediately followed by a 13-1 FSU run that gave the Lady Broncos one of their three leads in the game. FSU again led at 21-20, but UNCP had a slim margin the rest of the way, with the Lady Broncos making spurts to get back in the game.
The UNCP lead at the half was 30-25. The Lady Braves' lead never rose more than six in the second period.
A pair of Sequoia Morton free throws got FSU within 34-33 at the 13:23 mark. But Avae' Hardy hit a 3-pointer and a layup to stretch the margin back to six.
Emerald Smith's layup at the 8:12 mark made it 41-39. De'Aira Smith hit a layup just over a minute later to make it 44-43; UNCP. Resper's layup with 3:55 left gave FSU its final lead.
From there, UNCP's Jazmine Kemp hit a layup and a foul shot and the Lady Braves played solid enough defense to hold on the rest of the way.
Morton finished with 10 points, joining Middleton in double-figure scoring. FSU forced 20 Lady Braves' turnovers and scored 13 points on those miscues.
The Lady Broncos travel to Virginia-Lynchburg on Saturday for a 2 pm matchup.