BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Dominique Williams hit four crucial free throws in the final 15 seconds as the Claflin University Lady Panthers defeated LeMoyne-Owen, 58-55, in the quarterfinal round of the 2018 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) Basketball Tournament on Thursday.
This is the second straight season the Lady Panthers have advanced to the semifinal.
Ashley Fields led Claflin with a double-double, 21 points-10 rebounds and three steals.
The Lady Panthers had three players to finish in double figures as Joy Okeke dropped in 14 points and Deja Dickens came off the bench to score 11 points.
Dominique Williams contributed seven points with four steals in the win.
LeMoyne-Owen was led by Dana Gettis with 20 points. Tenesha Wright scored nine points with six rebounds and Ty Broadwater pulled in 10 rebounds for the Magicians who finished the season with an 16-11 record.
Okeke made two short jumpers within the first minute and a half to start the third quarter and push the half-time lead to eight, 37-29, at the 8:34 mark.
LeMoyne-Owen then outscored the Lady Panthers 10-4 over the next six minutes to pull within three, 42-39. Fields hit a free throw with four seconds remaining in the quarter for the 43-39 advantage after three.
Claflin forced the Magicians into a turnover followed by a layup by Jhanice Stokes to start of the fourth quarter. The Lady Panthers pushed its lead to eight mid-way through the fourth, 50-42 with 5:26 remaining but then LeMoyne-Owen picked up its offensive intensity.
The Magicians used an 11-4 run over the next four-plus minutes to cut the deficit to one, 54-53, with 1:12 remaining.
After a couple of strong defensive stops, Williams hit two free-throws with 15.2 seconds remaining to put the Lady Panthers up by three, 56-53. Wright hit a jumper with 11 seconds left to cut the deficit to one, but Williams’ clutch free throws with seven seconds remaining sealed the deal for Claflin.
“It was push and pull all night long, a battle well fought” first-year Lady Panthers head coach Revonda Whitley said. “I told my team it’s a game of runs and they are going to make their runs, but down the stretch there will decisions that need to be made and I trusted my team to make the right decisions.”
LeMoyne-Owen opened the game with a 6-1 run over the first two-plus minutes. Okeke hit a short jumper at the 7:10 mark to end the run. The Lady Panthers then went on a 6-2 run which was culminated by a fast break basket by Dickens off the assist by Williams to take its first lead 9-8 with 5:08 left in the quarter.
Claflin pushed the lead to 18-13 before owning the 23-15 lead after one.
The Magicians outscored the Lady Panthers 14-10 in the second.
Claflin (17-12) advanced to the semifinals to face Clark Atlanta (18-8) the No. 1 seed in the East Division, who defeated Miles College 60-54 in the quarterfinal on Wednesday. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. (ET).
“I have to go back to it, defense; we have to play solid defense to beat Clark Atlanta,” said Whitley. “We’ve been hanging our hats on defense all season and I keep telling my ladies our offensive will come, but when you leave your hearts on the floor with defense you won’t leave with any regrets.”