Maryville College followed a stout defensive effort in the second half on Wednesday night, as the Scots overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to advance to the second round of the USA South Athletic Conference Tournament, 63-53.
LaGrange College shot an impressive 53.8 percent (14-of-26) from the floor in the first half, as they bucketed each of their three 3-pointers. MC posted just an 8-of-25 mark in the first 40 minutes of action, while the offense struggled with a 4-of-18 performance beyond the arc. The Scots trailed by as many as 11 in the first half.
However, in the third quarter, Maryville didn't allow a single field goal for the first 7:07. The Scots used a 16-2 run to take control of the game over that span, eventually outscoring LaGrange, 21-7, in the third.
"It was impressive. The first half, we didn't play really well, obviously, but you're only down 10 at the half," Head Coach Darrin Travillian said. "You feel like you can't play worse offensively than we did, so to see us come out and make that quick turn around from the locker room – get out here and get it done in the second half – that speaks a lot for them. They've been a tough bunch all year. It hasn't been an easy road, but they came out and dug in. It was pretty awesome to watch them play."
The Panthers' only points in the Scots' third-quarter rally was a pair of free throws by Jahpera McEachin. Catherine Upshaw's 3-points off the Libby Garnder assist tied the game at 34-all, before a Holland Jerrolds' free throw gave MC the lead at the 4:22 mark for the first time since the 8:41 mark of the first quarter.
Maryville forced a pair of turnovers, as they held the LaGrange to an 0-of-11 performance in the third-quarter rally.
"That's been the one knock that I've had consistently on this team all year, is that you've got to get a stop when it matters," Travillian said. "Get a stop when it matters. We put together a six, seven minute run where we got a bunch [of stops], and it totally changed the game."
MC held the Panthers to a 24 percent effort in the second half, as LaGrange went 6-of-25. The Scots gave up just one second-half trey, forcing a 16.7 percent mark from the fifth seed in the conference tournament.
With Wednesday's win, Maryville will travel to Danville, Va. to face off with the tournament's top-seeded Cougars of Averett University.
For Travillian, having the chance to take his young team deeper into the USA South Tournament is a positive.
"You're playing a No. 1 seed in their building," the head coach said. "It's going to be really hard to do, but I'm glad we're going. I'm glad this team gets a chance to go. You've got so many young kids and inexperienced kids on our team that this is their first conference tournament experience. Hey, I'm glad they get a chance to go play there, and you know, maybe we can scrap out another win."
Tip-off for the second-round matchup is slated for 2 p.m.
Maryville (13-13) was led by 19 points from Klaire Varney and a double-double by Kelley Wandell. Varney had 19 points, five assits, four rebounds and a steal, while Wandell added 11 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks, a trio of assists and two steals for a complete night.
Gardner added 11 points of her own with three assists, two steals and two rebounds, as Brooke McCurdy added 10 points. Elsa Eckenrod had six rebounds, four points, four steals and two assits, while Shelby Hix added four points on a 2-for-3 effort. Upshaw had three points, while Jerrolds added one.
MC shot 37.8 percent (17-of-45) on the night, as they bucketed seven treys. Maryville was 22-of-32 at the free-throw line, while LaGrange shot 9-of-14 at the charity stripe.
The Panthers (13-13) shot 39.2 percent (20-of-51) on the night, as they had four 3-pointers.
LaGrange followed McEachin – the Panthers' only double-digit scorer – who had 14 points and three assists. Marilauren Farr had nine points and four rebounds in just 21:48, as the forward struggled with foul trouble. Sadie Desroches led the way on the boards for LaGrange with seven rebounds.