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Hawks just miss against UNC-P

MURFREESBORO – “Missed it by that much!”

That’s the old (or new!) Maxwell Smart axiom from “Get Smart” (TV or film) that might’ve described the Chowan women’s basketball team and their effort Friday night at the Helms Center as they suffered a tough loss against the Braves of UNC-Pembroke, 62-47, in a game that was much closer than the final score indicates.

Sophomore guard Brittany Nicholson poured in a season-high 13 points to lead the Hawks in scoring. She also had a pair of blocked shots, three steals and five rebounds. Senior Acquanette Simmons paced Chowan in rebounding as grabbed 13 caroms, nine on the defensive end.

JaToya Kemp led three UNCP players in double figures with 15 while Natalie Ray and Marquena Delk had a dozen apiece.

“Defensively, to give up only 62 points was pretty good for us,” said coach Pat Mashuda, “but you’ve got to score more than 47. We were right there with nine minutes left when it was 41-40, but we struggled tremendously down to the wire.”

Indeed, Chowan was outscored 10-1 in a five minute stretch from that one-point margin, as UNCP won its 3rd game in five starts.

“We struggled to score too,” said fifth-year Braves coach John Haskins, “which is a credit to Chowan’s defense, but finally down the stretch we were able to execute.”

With their zone press and match-up zone defense Chowan erased a 7-2 deficit in the early going to tie the score at 9-9 thanks to freshman Ransheda Jennings, who had a pair of jumpers, including a three-pointer.

Junior Alicia McMorris gave the Hawks their first lead with under eight minutes to play at 13-12 with a lay-up. Nicholson then snatched a big rebound and went coast-to-coast for and easy lay-in and Chowan’s biggest lead of the half at 15-12. The two teams then played evenly down to the one-minute mark before UNCP made 3-of-4 free throws to take a 25-22 lead into the locker-room at halftime.

After UNCP made a lay-up to push the margin up to five, Nicholson helped ignite another short run for Chowan to tie the game at 29-all with just four minutes gone in the half.

McMorris came through again to follow with a three-pointer and Chowan matched its biggest lead at 32-29.

But Pembroke was patient and began to control the offensive glass, allowing them to tie it for the final time at 37-all. Freshman Maddie Cummings made a short jump shot from the right side to give the Braves what turned out to be their final lead of the night at 39-37.

Though Chowan was in the bonus early at the charity stripe they could not convert missing three-of-four and at the nine-minute mark Pembroke held a one-point lead of 41-40 before they began their final run to the win. UNCP extended their zone and Chowan began to misfire badly from the outside and inside Pembroke was controlling the boards.

Three foul shots and a couple of field goals made it 48-40 as Chowan went scoreless for three minutes before a pair of Demicka McMahan free throws trimmed the margin to seven with just under five minutes to play.

But the Hawks still couldn’t find the iron and thanks to Ray working in the low post and Kemp lighting it up from the outside, UNCP led by a dozen points twice before a late three-pointer made for the final margin and stopped Chowan’s one-game win streak.

“We took care of the ball,” said sophomore guard, Najah Harris, “but we just couldn’t get stops defensively. We had a couple of spurts here and there but it just became a case of up not being able to get our shots off.”

“We’ve just got to challenge each other,” added McMahan. “We’ve just got to get our inside game going.”

“The ladies worked hard, protected the ball, battled on the backboards and did a lot of things we asked them to do,” said Mashuda. “We’ve now just got to find opportunities for the right players to get us big buckets when we need them.”

Chowan (1-7) hosted Cheyney State of Pennsylvania on Sunday in an afternoon matinee at the Helms Center.