|Despite trailing NCAA Tournament veteran Whitman at the half, East Texas Baptist wrestled away a victory on Friday night.
Photo by Joe Fusco, d3photography.com
Making its NCAA Tournament debut, East Texas Baptist overcame a six-point halftime deficit and knocked off No. 19 Whitman 65-59, keeping the Tigers' Cinderella postseason run going.
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Midway through the third quarter, Maddy Burdett hit a three-pointer to give Whitman a nine-point lead, 41-32. The Tigers (23-6) responded with a 14-2 run that turned the game around. Erin Meeks started the rally with a jumper, followed by a three-point play from Mallory Stephens that cut the Blues' lead to 41-37. After a Whitman basket, Meeks made four free throws on the Tigers' next two possessions and Sidney Saxton made a jumper in the paint to tie the game at 43. Saxton added a three-point play to complete the run and give East Texas Baptist the lead. 46-43.
Whitman rallied to tie the game at 46 entering the fourth period where the teams battled to a 59-all tie with one minute left. After an empty Blues possession, Meeks was fouled and hit two free throws, putting the Tigers in front. Whitman missed a shot on its next possession and the Tigers grabbed the rebound and got fouled again. This time Madison McCoy made two free throws, extending the lead to 63-59 with 10 seconds left. One more exchange of a missed Whitman shot and ETBU free throws put the score at its final count, 65-59.
East Texas Baptist outscored Whitman 40-20 in the paint and had a 27-16 advantage in reserves scoring The Tigers were 0-for-12 from three but 23-for-26 from the foul line. Whitman was 6-for-10 from the foul line and 9-for-27 from three.
Meeks and Kim Childress combined for 32 points, including a 14-for-15 perfromance from the foul line. Burdett scored 24 for the Blues, but All-American Casey Poe was held to one point in 23 minutes before fouling out.
"These girls are amazing. I feel like I keep saying the same thing over and over every time I sit here," said East Texas Baptist head coach Rusty Rainbolt in the postgame news conference. "We can't take credit for it. The Lord is good. These girls have just grown so much and the Lord has transformed our hearts and honestly I can say we keep playing for Him. We play the game of basketball but we want it to be about something different."
East Texas Baptist advances to play regional host and ASC rival Texas-Dallas in the second round on Saturday night. The Comets defeated No. 25 Trinity (Texas) 79-70 in Friday night's first round game. This will be the fourth meeting of the season between Texas-Dallas and East Texas Baptist, with the Comets winning the two regular season meetings and the Tigers winning the ASC tournament semifinal, also played at Texas-Dallas.