PRICE AND GAMBLE PACE JOHNSON C. SMITH PAST RAMS AND INTO SEMIFINALS
CHARLOTTE – If there was any question whether
Winston-Salem State was going to find a way to knock off Johnson C.
Smith in the CIAA Tournament, Shavonda Price and LaQwesha Gamble
provided the answer.
Price was a perfect 12 of 12 from the foul line on her way to a career-high 27 points and Gamble added 21 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots as the Lady Golden Bulls turned away every Winston-Salem State charge to pick up a 75-70 victory in the quarterfinals of the CIAA Tournament on Wednesday night.
“You just have to approach the game like it’s your last,” said the senior Price, who like Gamble was an All-CIAA selection. “We weren’t going to go without kicking and screaming. We’ve put so much into this season not to take advantage of the opportunity.”
Johnson C. Smith (21-5), the Southern Division’s No. 2 seed, will play the Cinderella of the tournament, fifth-seeded Chowan (12-16), in the tournament semifinals at 3 p.m. on Friday.
The game featured seven lead changes and four ties – all of which came in the first half. But it also featured a combined 10 scoring runs of at least six or more points, as the two teams traded haymakers throughout one of the best-played games thus far in the women’s tournament.
But while Winston-Salem State (18-10) never led in the second half, it wasn’t for a lack of trying. The Rams put together an 8-0 spurt to trim a 10-point second half deficit to two, 51-49, with 10:23 remaining, only to have Price score four points and Gamble come up with a steal and a nifty move to free herself for a jumper to spark a 10-2 response to rebuild the lead back to 10, 61-51, with 7:23 left.
Emblematic of the entire game, though, Winston-Salem State came right back. With the Golden Bulls missing two shots early in the shot clock, the Rams were able to get into the open floor off of long rebounds, and Courtney Medley capped a 9-2 stretch with a 3-pointer to make it 67-64 with 2:25 to go.
Gamble, though, later answered with a steal and a putback to push the lead back to six, 71-65, with 1:11 remaining, but Medley, who finished with 18 points to lead four Rams in double figures, buried a 25-foot 3 from the top of the key to again make it a one-possession game, 71-68, with 54.4 seconds left.
“That’s just one heck of a player,” Rams coach Stephen Joyner Jr. said of Medley. “She just turned it up a notch to give us a chance.”
But Price was too much, even in rebounding. She skied amongst a cluster of players to come down with a crucial defensive rebound and was fouled with 18.9 seconds left. Price made four straight foul shots in the waning seconds to stay perfect from the line, finally putting the finishing touches on the game.
“It was inspiring basketball, not just for the individuals, but for (Price’s and Gamble’s) teammates as well, who are depending on them,” Taylor said. “We’re excited about getting through and taking our first step in the tournament.”
Racquel Davis shook off foul trouble to add nine points and nine rebounds for the Golden Bulls, who won for the third time this season over Winston-Salem State.
Monique Williams added 14 points while Jasmine Newkirk had 11 and Jordhan Peterson had 10 for the Lady Rams.
Price had 13 points by the half, as two of the conference’s top programs lived up to their respective reputations with an entertaining first half. Newkirk had all 11 points at the break to check Price, and neither team was able to build more than a six-point lead at any point in the half.
Newkirk did not play in the second half after suffering an ankle injury just before the break.
Johnson C. Smith appeared as though it might take control of the game early after a beautiful crossover move and jumper by Price capped a 9-2 run for a 17-11 Golden Bulls’ advantage.
But in a pattern that would define the first half, Winston-Salem State came right back with six straight points to tie the game.