Career night powers Hawks to victory

Published 11:09 am Thursday, November 30, 2017

MURFREESBORO – Mariah Coker said her teammates kept calling her name.

And each time she responded in a big way.

The 2017 Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Rookie of the Year blew away any talk of a ‘sophomore jinx’ as she drained a school-record-tying seven three-point baskets. The Hawks needed every bit of that Herculean effort as the Chowan University’s women’s basketball team picked up their seventh win of the season 80-75 over Francis Marion here Tuesday night.

It was Chowan’s seventh win of the year, upping their record on the young season to 7-1.

Chowan University’s Mariah Coker (#5) tied a school record, going 7-for-7 on three-point shots en route to a career-high 28 points. The effort helped the Hawks hold off Francis Marion 80-75 for their seventh win of the season. | Photo by Angie Todd

The evening was not without its nail-biting moments. Chowan blew a dozen-point lead in the third quarter as the Patriots fought back and tied it at 64-64 with less than five-and-a-half remaining in the game before the Hawks were able to stave off a comeback at the free-throw line.

Chowan had been averaging nearly a 20-point margin in five of their previous six wins, including a romp through a couple of CIAA opponents in winning the FSU Broncos Thanksgiving Classic in Fayetteville over the holiday weekend. Forced to defend home court, this was a good test for this team.

“I don’t expect blow-outs every night,” said second-year head coach LaToya Jones. “Every night we have to come to play, and play to our strengths.

One of those strengths might have been a better job of protecting the ball. Chowan had a dozen first-half turnovers, but only three in the second half.

“Yes, the coaches stressed that at half-time,” said Coker. “We responded by doing a better job of protecting the ball.”

They did that and kept feeding to ball to the diminutive sophomore shooter. The Portsmouth native was also able to add a career-high eight assists and five steals to the mix.

Dhyamond Crenshaw chipped in with 16 points before fouling out with more than seven minutes left, and newly named CIAA Player of the Week, Chantel Roberts, scored 12 points and grabbed nine boards. The Hawk defense also swiped 14 steals.

Chowan jumped out to an early lead before the two teams began trading baskets with the Hawks never giving up the lead.

The Patriots would fight back with a 5-0 run to cut the deficit to one, 12-11 before Chowan went on a 6-1 run and Coker ended the scoring with her first triple of the game to give the Hawks an 18-12 lead.

Second Quarter:

Francis Marion opened the second quarter with a small run, but Coker would once again knock down a trey to give the Hawks some breathing room, 21-16. The Patriots then went on a 10-3 run to take their only lead of the night (26-24). But Danielle Weldon found Coker for her third three to give the Hawks a lead they never gave back.  With two minutes until halftime, Weldon scored in the low post and Roberts nailed a triple before Coker sent a half-court heave towards the basket as the buzzer sounded finding nothing but net to give the Hawks a 37-32 advantage at the mid-break.

The Hawks’ lead would push their advantage up to eight in the third quarter, 48-40, as Coker tacked on another three along with a Roberts bucket to extend the lead which grew to 54-42. But Francis Marion continued to chip away at the deficit as the Patriots ended the quarter on a 10-2 run trailing the Hawks 57-53 heading to the final stanza.

FMU would rally to tie the contest at 64-all midway through the fourth, but were unable to overtake the lead. Again, Coker stepped up with back-to-back triples to push the lead to six, 72-66. Despite the Patriots getting within three with just over a minute left, Jada Lee helped ice it with two big jump shots and a free throw with two seconds left.

“Sometimes we make the game harder than it should have been,” said Coker. “But, the record aside, it’s good to get a win.”

“Keys to our success: team play, energy, and being quicker on the court,” said Jones. “We support each other and I think they’re happy for each other’s success.”

Chowan is off until next week when they hit the road for their final non-conference contest before CIAA play. They will travel to play the University of Mount Olive on Dec. 6.