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Comeback attempt falls flat for NCWC in home loss to Salem

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N.C. Wesleyan College's KeChae Parker, right, attempts a shot as Salem College's Sabrina Shepherd defends on Saturday at Everett Gymnasium.

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By SAMUEL EVERS
Sports Writer

Saturday, January 20, 2018

A two-point lead in the opening minute of Saturday’s game aside, the N.C. Wesleyan women’s basketball was fighting an uphill battle the entire contest.

Playing at Everett Gymnasium against Salem College in the midst of their best stretch of basketball of the season, the Bishops took a step back, spotting the Spirits a nine-point lead by the end of first quarter, which expanded to 11 by halftime.

Runs by the Bishops (7-9, 4-4 USA South) brought them to within at least five points of Salem on six second half occasions, but Salem seemed to always have a corresponding run. The final NCWC push brought the deficit to just five points with two minutes left, but the Spirits went on a 16-8 run aided by made free throws to seal the game for a final score of 84-71.

For coach Artina Trader, whose team had beat Salem on the road only 13 days earlier, the loss was particularly frustrating. It snapped a stretch of five wins in seven games.

“They made the plays when they needed to. They had some key offensive rebounds that kept us from getting over the hump,” Trader said. “They did a very good job in that fourth quarter of getting the ball to who they needed to get it to, making a play when they had to, making their free throws.”

Salem made 27 free throws and shot 42.6 percent overall, while the Bishops shot just 37.9 percent from the field.

“We had some people just shoot terrible,” Trader said, “that’s not going to win us games.”

Early in the fourth quarter, Weslie Young hit a layup for the Bishops that made the score 55-53, igniting the crowd and seemingly swinging the momentum.

But on the very next play, Sabrina Shepherd, who finished with a game-high 32 points, hit a three-pointer to stretch the lead to five. Then, the Spirits got a defensive stop and, on offense, gave the ball back to Shepherd. Same result. She hit another three that stretched the lead from five to eight in just 40 seconds.

“She is a phenomenal shooter,” Salem coach Britni Mohney said. “She comes in clutch whenever we need her to. She’s our spark.”

The lead hovered around eight to 10 points for next few minutes, until the Bishops mounted another run to make it 66-61 with three minutes left. They had a chance to bring it closer, but two missed free throws kept the deficit at five.

For the Spirits, behind Shepherd was MiKayla Seivers, who finished with 18, reaching 1,000 points with her 13th point.

The Bishops were led by Cheria Turrentine, who was an outlier on an otherwise poor shooting day. She hit 9 of 13 shots, totaling 18 points, five assists and just one turnover.

“She’s always steady, but for her to give us those points tonight was great,” Trader said, “and we needed every single one of them.”

It’ll be a quick turnaround from the loss for NCWC, which will again play host against Greensboro College this afternoon at 2 p.m.

“It’s a good thing,” Trader said. “Hopefully we get to not sulk too much and overthink things. Just get out there and play.”

Men’s: NCWC 82, Piedmont 76

The N.C. Wesleyan men’s team, playing on the road, outscored Piedmont by seven in the second half to pick up a conference victory by an 82-76 score.

Adrian Moore led the way with 23 points and Damon McDowell added 18 points off the bench.

The Bishops (8-6, 6-3) play on the road again on Sunday against Brevard.

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