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November 26, 2011

Catamounts slip past Tech with three-point, comeback victory

 COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – It’s hard to find where Western Carolina had any edge Saturday night, but the Catamounts managed to win the one number that matters – the final score. Despite getting topped in pretty much every category, Western Carolina escaped Eblen Center with a come-from-behind, 61-58 victory over Tennessee Tech in non-conference women’s basketball action.

Tech (2-4) held a slight edge throughout the stat sheet, but Western Carolina (4-2) got some clutch baskets down the stretch for the road victory.

Three Catamounts reached double figures, led by Alex Abraham and Kaila’Shea Menendez with 12 each. Rena Wakama added 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds.

Senior Brittany Darling was whistled for five fouls, leaving the game as the most dominant player on the floor. She headed to the bench early with 18 points on 9-for-14 shooting, along with eight rebounds and three blocked shots.

Senior Tacarra Hayes managed 17 points, going 7-for-8 at the free throw line. Diamond Henderson scored all nine of her points in the first half, while Briana Jordan finished with a game-high five assists.

Wakama hit a 3-pointer with 3:40 remaining to break a 54-54 tie, and Menendez banked in a pair of layups in the final two minutes to provide the winning margin. 

After Menendez’ first basket made it a 59-54 lead for WCU, Hayes drained two free throws to cut the difference to 59-56. With 47 seconds left, Menendez again worked her way to the hoop and scored to make it 61-56.

A long shot by Krystal Stirrup was good, but ruled a two-point shot and Tech was within three, 61-58, with 33 seconds remaining.

WCU’s Abraham was called for an illegal pick and Tech got one final chance with seven seconds to play, but Henderson’s 3-pointer at the buzzer was off the mark.

The Golden Eagles shared the ball well in claiming the lead in the first half, leading by as many as 11 points before heading into halftime with a 36-34 advantage.

The Golden Eagle lead edged upward behind solid inside play from Darling and 3-for-3 long range gunning by Henderson. A Darling layup with 5:01 to play in the half made it 25-14 for the home team before WCU stormed back.

The Catamounts used a 9-0 run to tie the contest at 25-25, getting 3-pointers from Wakama, Ali Lane and Menendez. Molly Heady, making her first career start, gave Tech a four-point lead with 1:16 to play, and Henderson drained her third 3-pointer of the half with 34 seconds remaining to put Tech up, 36-33.

The Golden Eagles were up by seven midway in the second half, but four free throws and layups by Abraham and Janae’ McKinney brought the Catamounts all the way back to take a 51-50 led with 8:51 to play.

Tech hits the road for its next contest, making the journey to Huntsville, Ala., to face Alabama A&M on Tuesday. The game tips off at 6 p.m. CT, with the action live on the Golden Eagle Sports Network.

After that, the Golden Eagles come home to Eblen Center for their next two. Tech hosts Lipscomb on Monday, Dec. 5, then welcomes Western Kentucky on Wednesday, Dec. 7, for the first game of a doubleheader.

Call (931-372-3940) or visit the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center for tickets, or order online at TTUsports.com.