March 17, 2007
Blacksburg, Va. - A lay-up by Western Carolina senior Lynsie Lamitie just under a minute into the second half forced the fourth tie of the game, knotting things at 37. However, Virginia Tech scored nine-straight points as a part of a 22-to-6 run to grab a game-high, 16-point advantage en route to downing the Lady Catamounts, 74-64, Saturday night at the Cassell Coliseum in the second round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament.
Western (24-10) concludes a historic season in the program's 42-year history. The Lady Catamounts posted a school-record 24 wins - including the 500th all-time - and claimed a share of the school's first-ever Southern Conference regular season championship. The 15 conference victories were the most-ever by a WCU squad.
The Lady Catamounts also had a record season at the turnstiles, breaking the previous top attendance of 1,282 that witnessed the Lady Cats versus N.C. State back in 1980 three-times. In the season-opener, WCU drew 1,979 fans to establish a new benchmark, surpassing that tally with a school-record 2,128 in the home win over Chattanooga in early February. Last Thursday, 1,923 witnessed WCU's first-ever Division I post-season victory over East Tennessee State. All told, Western averaged 974 fans per game in 2006-07, second in the league.
On Saturday night, juniors Chevon Keith and Monique Dawson each finished with 12 points apiece with sophomore Brooke Johnson adding 10 in the loss, which was just the third in the past 19 games for WCU. Keith just missed a double-double with nine rebounds and tied her career-high with five steals.
Even with Virginia Tech shooting 63-percent (17-of-27) from the floor in the opening 20 minutes, Western managed to keep things close with timely shots and a stingy defense that forced a dozen Hokie turnovers. Trailing by seven midway through the half, the Lady Catamounts embarked on a 15-to-4 run to erase the deficit and take their largest lead of four, 31-27, with 4:05 on the clock before the break. Virginia Tech managed to outscore WCU, 10-to-4, to end the half with a two-point, 37-35 advantage.
Following Lamitie's deuce out of the halftime locker room, Virginia Tech held Western to 0-for-6 shooting from the floor and forced seven turnovers to build its 16-point lead. The Lady Cats lone points during that stretch were from a pair of free throws from Dawson and Keith.
But the Lady Catamounts never folded, trimming the deficit to nine on a lay-up by Dawson with six minutes remaining in regulation. Over the next three minutes, though, WCU could not take advantage of opportunities to cut into lead more, failing to convert on three Hokies turnovers. Powell could not connect on the front end of a one-and-one, but freshman Kristen Feemster skied to pull down the rebound to keep the possession alive. Another miss from the field slid out of bounds off a VT player for another opportunity, with Pellom missing a runner in the lane and Eaton missing after the offensive rebound.
Ultimately, Western was able to pull within eight points twice - 2:32 and 1:30 - but time ran out as 3-point opportunities and follows would not fall.
The Hokies (19-14), who advance to play the winner of Sunday's Auburn-UAB match-up, put three players in double figures led by 20 points from red-shirt sophomore forward Brittany Cook on 8-of-10 shooting. Senior Nare Diawara posted a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, adding four blocked shots, with sophomore Laura Haskins finishing with a dozen.
WCU returns all but two players next season, losing seniors Erin May (Marion, N.C.) and Lynsie Lamitie (Lacey's Springs, Ala.). May is scheduled to graduate this spring with a degree in Environmental Health. During her four seasons at Western, May played in three Southern Conference tournament finals. Lamitie, who transferred from Gadsden State prior to last season, earned her undergraduate Bachelor's of Arts degree in English from WCU this past fall, graduating with honors Magna Cum Laude.