From Armstrong Sports Information:
HICKORY, N.C. – The eighth-seeded Armstrong Atlantic State University women's basketball team held top-seeded and host Lenoir-Rhyne University to its season-low shooting percentage in a 64-56 upset win at the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional on Friday evening at Shuford Gymnasium.
The Pirates (20-7) advance to the region semifinal where they will take on the winner of Friday's final contest between fourth-seeded North Georgia and fifth-seeded Columbus State at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday. Lenoir-Rhyne sees its season come to a close at 24-7.
The Bears opened up a 13-6 lead eight minutes into the contest, but Armstrong embarked on a 10-0 run over the next three minutes, capped by a basket by senior Bryonna Davis with 8:38 left in the half, to take a 16-13 lead. Lenoir-Rhyne went back in front just a minute later on a layup by Nneka Awuruonye. Armstrong re-took the lead on a three-pointer by senior Tyler Carlson, 21-19, with 4:29 left in the half and the Pirates rode that momentum into a 25-22 halftime lead.
A three-pointer out of halftime by Davis, followed by a basket from senior Hanna Bognar stretched the lead to eight a minute into the second half, and Armstrong extended that lead to 12 points at one point, 39-27, on another three-pointer by Davis with 12:25 remaining. Lenoir-Rhyne cut the lead to six, 55-49, on a free throw by Krystal Patton with 2:54 left, but the Pirates salted the game away by hitting seven of eight free throws in the final minute, including 6-of-6 from senior Stephenie Coney to clinch the victory.
“I think the nerves got the best of us to start,” Armstrong head coach Fala Bullock said. We didn't start the game right, but we didn't quit. We battled every possession, made it challenging for them.”
Armstrong held the Bears to a season-low 26.4 percent from the field (19-of-72) while shooting 37.7 percent from the field themselves (20-of-53). The Pirates hit 5-of-14 three-pointers (35.7 percent) compared to Lenoir-Rhyne's 7-of-23 threes (30.4 percent). Armstrong held the edge at the free throw line, making 19-of-24 free throws for 79.2 percent, compared to Lenoir-Rhyne's 11-of-24 for 45.8 percent.
“I thought we used our length to our advantage [defensively],” Bullock said. “We held our ground and just made them have to take tough shots. I'm very proud of the defensive effort.”
Peach Belt Conference Freshman of the Year Brigitta Barta led all scorers on the night with 21 points for the Pirates on 9-of-17 shooting from the floor, while Davis added 14 points and Coney chipped in 10 points. Senior Mauri Wells had 12 rebounds on the night, moving past Gigi Gibson (963, 1980-84) for second on the Armstrong all-time rebounding chart with 966.
Daktronics Region Player of the Year Jazmine Charles led the Bears on the night with 18 points, but was the only Lenoir-Rhyne player to reach double figures.
Armstrong becomes the third straight lower seed to win in the opening round of the Southeast Regional on Friday after wins by No. 6 Belmont Abbey and No. 7 Limestone.
“It's anybody's game here,” Bullock said. “I think the lower seeds have really locked in and prepared. They've looked very focused in all the games. We knew we matched up well with them [Lenoir-Rhyne]. I did feel like we had an advantage on the inside and we went there consistently. We've been doing it all year, figuring out the inside-outside game.”
Armstrong now improves to 2-2 all-time in NCAA Championships play and advances to the region semifinal for the second time, following the 2003-04 season in which the Pirates knocked off North Florida, 75-68, in the first round before falling to Augusta State, 79-74, in the region semifinals.