ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Southern Conference Media Freshman of the Year Jewel Smalls finished in double figures for the sixth straight game, but eighth-seeded Western Carolina was held to just 21.7 field goal percentage in a 55-32 loss to top seed Mercer in the Ingles Southern Conference Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday morning at the US Cellular Center.
Mercer improves to 23-7 on the season while Western Carolina concludes the year with a 4-26 record.
Smalls paced the Catamounts with 11 points to finish in double figures for the 16th time on the year. The Roswell, Ga. native capped her freshman campaign with 330 points, second-most among Catamount newcomers all-time. Senior Angel Allen recorded 10 points to finish in double figures for the 11th time this season and 16th time in her career. Smalls grabbed a team-best seven rebounds.
KeKe Calloway had a game-high 18 points to lead the Bears. Amanda Thompson grabbed a game-high 17 rebounds, 14 of which came on the defensive glass. Calloway also had three steals. Shannon Titus had a game-high three blocks.
Judith Martin-Ruiz opened the scoring with a jumper 27 seconds into the game before the Bears went on an 11-0 run to lead 11-2 with 3:52 remaining. The Catamounts battled back to trail 14-7 following an Allen 3-pointer with two minutes left. Mercer led 16-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Despite many good looks at the basket, the Catamounts were held to just three points in the second quarter, outscored 11-3 to trail at intermission, 27-10. Jada Miller made one of two free throw attempts with 1:23 to play in the stanza before adding a driving layup with 29 seconds remaining served as the final points of the opening half.
Following a Kayla Brown free throw at the 7:09 mark of the third quarter that trimmed the Catamount deficit to 31-14, the Bears went on a 9-0 spurt capped by a Calloway jumper with 3:41 remaining. Layups by Allen and Miller along with a free throw gave the Catamounts a 5-0 run during the latter stages of the quarter, but Mercer held a 44-20 edge at the end of the frame.
Allen’s jumper 33 seconds into the fourth quarter cut the Catamount deficit to 22, 44-22. The Bears pushed their lead to a game-high 28 points, 50-22, on a Rachel Selph jumper at the 6:31 mark. Summer Pahl’s free throws with 55 seconds remaining were the final points of the game.
Thursday’s game served as the final contest for WCU seniors Allen and Kennedy Rushin. The pair combined to play in 156 games with 69 starts.