By Jeff Birchfield
Press Sports Writer
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Dec. 22, 2011) – Despite their best efforts, the East Tennessee State women’s basketball team couldn’t keep it going Thursday night.
The Lady Bucs, fresh off their first win of the season on Tuesday against Morehead State, rallied from a 14-point deficit before falling to Chattanooga 88-80 at the MSHA Center.
“I thought for the majority of the game, we played hard,” ETSU head coach Karen Kemp said after her team fell to 1-11 on the season. “I definitely would have preferred a win, but our effort against Chattanooga was terrific. We’re playing a lot of young ones, but they’re growing up fast.”
One of their older players, senior Gwen Washington (Manassas, Va.) posted an 18-point performance to lead the Lady Bucs. Washington hit 6 of 8 shots from the field and was 5 of 7 from the free-throw line.
“Since it was Chattanooga, it was a big game,” Washington said. “I’ve been here four years and know what a big rivalry it is. I felt I came out and played pretty good.”
Ahead just 33-31 at the break, the Lady Mocs (8-3) assumed control in the first nine minutes of the second half to go up 60-46.
The flow of the game changed with 11 minutes to go.
Destiny Mitchell (Bluffton, Ga.), held to just one point before then, spurred a Lady Buc rally which saw them eventually tie the game at 72.
Battling illness, she was on the bench when Chattanooga’s Meghan Downes hit a couple of short jump shots to push the lead back out to five points.
Mitchell re-entered the game with 1:12 left and ended with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Downes ended with a game-high 19 points for the Lady Mocs, while Kayla Christopher scored 13 points, which included four late free throws, to secure the outcome. Overall, Chattanooga hit over 65 percent from the field in the second half.
“It seemed like every time we would stretch it out and get a comfortable lead, they would come back,” Chattanooga head coach Wes Moore said. “We were just fortunate we shot the lights out the second half.”
Other double-digit scorers for the Lady Mocs were Whitney Hood with 17 points, Kylie Lambert with 13 points and Alex Black with 10. Taylor Hall, a former Morristown West standout, led Chattanooga with 11 rebounds after getting one of her front teeth knocked out early in the first half.
For the Lady Bucs, Maria Bond (Macon, Ga.) reached double figures with a 12-point effort, while Tosha Austin (Chattanooga, Tenn.) grabbed a team-high nine rebounds.
Chattanooga’s head coach was complementary of the Lady Bucs’ rebounding efforts. ETSU ended with a slight 40-39 advantage on the boards, including a 13-8 edge on the offensive glass.
“They’re a very good team. I don’t care what their record is,” Moore said about ETSU. “I tell people I don’t look at records, I watch film. They’re going to win a bunch of games.”
Kemp echoed the sentiment, still optimistic the Lady Bucs can achieve their stated goal for the season.
"Our goal at the beginning of the year is to win every game,” Kemp said. “But, our primary goal is the Atlantic Sun Championship. I think we’re in good position to accomplish that goal that if we keep playing like we are right now.”
The Lady Bucs will now enjoy a long holiday break as ETSU doesn’t return to action until Jan. 4 when USC Upstate comes to Johnson City for an A-Sun doubleheader. Tip is set for 4:45 p.m. inside the MSHA Athletic Center.
Notes: The 80 points scored by the Lady Bucs marked a season high and it was the most scored since netting 83 against Lipscomb last March in the A-Sun Quarterfinals … ETSU is now averaging 73.8 points per game in their last four outings … Gwen Washington finished with a season-high 18 points and is now 98 points shy of becoming the 20th player in Lady Buccaneer history to reach the 1,000-point club … ETSU finished with nine turnovers, which is only the second time this season the Blue and Gold finished with less than 10 turnovers (9 vs. FGCU on 12/3) … Destiny Mitchell recorded all 14 of her points in the second half and has posted four consecutive games in double figures … the Lady Bucs received 46 percent of their scoring from their bench as ETSU outscored Chattanooga, 37 to 35 … ETSU has now posted at least one three-pointer at home in 82 straight games … ten of the eleven players who saw action reach the scoring column for the Lady Bucs – including freshman guard Chelsea Bowling scoring her first points of her young career in her first collegiate game … Bowling finished with four points in 12 minutes, as she missed the first 11 games of the year with a shoulder injury.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer hoops, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.