ASHEVILLE, N.C. — From the opening whistle on, it was apparent the Chattanooga women’s basketball team wasn’t facing the same Appalachian State team that, just eight days ago, it had scorched on the road in both squads’ regular-season finale.
The Lady Mocs didn’t quite look the same, either.
“At their place we shot 63 percent in the first half,” UTC coach Wes Moore said. “Everything went our way, we got a lot of momentum and a lot of confidence. They start four seniors, so I knew those kids were going to lay it all on the line.”
For a stretch in the second half, it look like the fourth-seeded Mountaineers might actually avenge last week’s 24-point pounding.
“We left everything out there on the floor and I’m so proud of our effort,” ASU coach Darcie Vincent said. “We won a lot of games this season with execution, but we just haven’t fought like that. I’m not as proud of those wins as I am sitting here right now.”
But while Appalachian State’s four seniors were laying it all on the line, Chattanooga junior Taylor Hall was busy making them all from the line.
Hall, who finished with a team-high 17 points, shot a perfect 11-for-11 from the free-throw line in the second half, including four from the stripe in the final 13.4 seconds to help seal her team’s 72-67 win over the the Mountaineers.
“There for a while we really weren’t attacking much, and as soon as we start to they were fouling,” said Hall, who didn’t make it to the stripe a single time in the first half. “I was able to just knock them down.”
Junior Ashlen Dewart finished with 16 points and eight rebounds for UTC, which held a 30-28 halftime advantage, sophomore Alex Black added 11, including two crucial second-half 3-pointers, and senior Kayla Christopher contributed nine.
“Really, down the stretch I didn’t feel like I did a whole lot to help,” Moore said. “I just felt like the kids stepped up and made plays when they needed to. They’ve kind of done that all year long.
“I’m just fortunate to have some players that, in crunch time, can make some shots.”
Chattanooga (28-3), which advanced to play No. 2 Davidson in Monday’s SoCon title game, trailed by five with just over five minutes to play, but Hall halted App State’s 7-1 spurt with a mid-range jumper from the corner.
Moments later senior Kylie Lambert added a pull-up jumper from the wing, trimming UTC’s deficit to 60-59, and Hall reclaimed the lead for the Lady Mocs with a pair of free throws at the 4:05 mark.
The lead changed hands twice more in the final four minutes, and ASU drew to within 68-67 following sophomore Maryah Sydnor’s 3-pointer with 20 seconds remaining, but the 6-1 guard came up empty on her desperation heave in the closing seconds
Senior Raven Gary led all scorers with 17 points, which included seven straight for the Mountaineers midway through the second half. Senior Courtney Freeman tallied 12 points and a game-high 10 rebounds in the losing effort, while Sydnor also finished in double-figures with 10 points.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.