Lady Chants erase 16-point deficit to down Winthrop

Olivia Irick drained a runner in the lane with 36.4 second to play giving Coastal a 55-54 lead and Angelica Henry sank three free throws in the final 19 seconds to lift Coastal to 58-54 come-from-behind win over Winthrop in the teams’ Big South Conference opener on New Year’s Eve in Kimbel Arena.

The thrilling victory pushes Coastal to 8-2 overall and 1-0 in Big South play as Winthrop falls to 6-7 (0-1 Big South).  The victory was the Chanticleers first in a conference opener since the 2008-09 team downed UNC Asheville to kick off its conference campaign.

Winthrop Dequesha McClanahan, the Big South’s leading scorer, opened the second half with the Eagle’s third triple of the game to extend the lead to 12 at 33-21.  Shatia Cole, a two-time Big South Freshman of the Week honoree, then reeled off seven straight points to pull the Chants within five at 33-28 with just under 16 minutes to play.

After a quick three by Winthrop’s Kaitlyn Rubino to temporarily halt the Chanticleer’s run, Irick sank her second trifecta of the game to regain Coastal’s momentum.  The senior then converted on a fastbreak layup and Kira Carter nailed a jumper in the lane to cut the Eagle’s lead to one point at 37-36.  Moments later, Katelyn Connor got high-kissing bank shot to fall as she was fouled to give Coastal the lead after being down 16 points with 4:11 to play in the first half.

The sides exchanged the next 10 points in the game before Alexx Puckett converted a fastbreak layup with 9:48 remaining to give Coastal a three point lead.  Winthrop would use an 8-2 run, with three points coming at the charity stripe, to regain a two point advantage at 50-46 with 4:43 to play.

Trailing by four with two minutes remaining, Irick was fouled and sent to the line where she made both freebies to cut the Eagle’s lead to two.  Henry then pulled down a defensive board, set the offense and sank a go-ahead triple on the next possession to give Coastal a 53-52 lead with 1:12 to play.  A McClanahan layup put Winthrop back in front on the Eagle’s ensuing possession before Irick and Henry secured the win with the game ending 5-0 run.

“This was a great team win for us,” said head coach Alan LeForce.  “I told the ladies after the game that we have the ability to play with any team in our league if we put forth this kind of effort every game.”

Cole knocked down her first of three triples in Coastal’s first possession of the game to give the Chants an early lead.  However, Coastal would go cold from the field over the ensuing eight minutes allowing Winthrop to pull out to an 11-5 advantage with 10:45 to play.  Shanika Maddox broke the Chants scoreless skid with a three point play at the 10:35 mark to close Winthrop’s lead to three.

The Eagles responded with a 16-4 run over the following six minutes to take a 27-11 lead with Coastal’s only points coming by way of a Henry three and a Connor free throw.  During the stretch Coastal’s Maddox, the team’s top rebounder and second leading scorer, was lost for the remainder of the game after falling hard to the floor fighting for a rebound. Winthrop’s run was aided by four forced Chanticleer turnovers and nine second chance points.

Coastal closed the final three minutes of the half on a 10-2 run to cut Winthrop’s lead to nine at 30-21 heading into the locker rooms.  Connor scored the first four points of the run followed by an Irick three and a Taylor Epley mid-range jumper as time expired in the half.

Cole led Coastal in scoring with 13 points as Irick added 12 and Epley pulled down a team-high eight boards.  Hammick led Winthrop with 16 points and recorded a game-high 14 boards as Wright and McClanahan poured in 15 and 12 points, respectively.

Coastal struggled with Winthrop’s zone defense in the first half to shoot 21.4 percent, but responded to shoot 50.0 percent in the second half, including 44.4 percent (4-of-9) from behind the arc.

Coastal concludes its three game homestand on Monday, Jan. 2 against Big South foe Presbyterian College.  Tip-off from Kimbel Arena is scheduled for 7 p.m.  The Chants and Blue Hose split the season series last year with the teams winning on their respective home courts.

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