Any athlete will tell you that when opportunity presents itself, you’ve got to seize it. Even if that opportunity presents itself at 11:30 in the morning in front of 2,347 screaming school children.
Afreyea Tolbert did just that Monday, using her first start in almost two years to spark the College of Charleston’s women’s basketball team to a 63-43 win over UNCG in front of an Education Day crowd of local students at TD Arena.
Tolbert started 15 games for the Northeastern Lady Huskies as a sophomore in the 2010-11 season before transferring to the College of Charleston. This year with the Cougars, she had been coming off the bench to average 6.1 points and 4.7 rebounds in less than 15 minutes per game.
Head coach Natasha Adair believed it was time to reward Tolbert for something that doesn’t always show up in the boxscore, though.
“The one thing we reward is effort, and I felt like (Tolbert) had had a great couple of days in practice, and I wanted that to translate on to the court today,” Adair said. “I met with her right before the game today, and I told her, ‘You’re starting because I’m rewarding effort. You’ve been practicing your butt off for the past couple of days, and I want to see that translate on the floor.’
“I’m so proud of what she brought to the table today in our team win.”
Tolbert finished with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting, and added 12 rebounds and two assists. Guard Alyssa Frye had a game-high 15 points, highlighted by a 7-of-9 night from the free-throw line. Latisha Harris had a monstrous first half, with 10 points and 11 rebounds before the break, but two quick fouls to start the second half limited her playing time. She finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Three Cougars finished the night with four fouls, but Adair was impressed with how they handled themselves once the fouls began to mount.
“I think we slowed the pace down toward the end of the game, and you know me: I want to run,” Adair said. “But you have to be smart. I think going (to a) zone (defense) helped us with the foul situation, because when we were in man-to-man, they were going right at Tish. So I think we made adjustments, and the kids are learning how to play, and be smart, and not force anything.”
The Cougars (9-12, 5-7 SoCon), who were picked in the preseason to finish 10th in the conference by the league’s coaches, are now in sixth place. If the season ended today, they would face UNCG again in the first round of the SoCon Tournament in Asheville.
Charleston will now head out on a two-game road trip to Georgia Southern and Davidson, before returning to TD Arena on Saturday, Feb. 16, to host league-leading Chattanooga. The SoCon Tournament starts on Friday, March 8.