An old saying goes, “that’s just the way the ball bounces.” For freshman Breanna Bolden, that bounce just so happened to be at the most crucial moment in the game.
The women’s basketball team dropped a heartbreaker to Stephen F. Austin University, 78-74, on Thursday night at TD Arena in the semifinal round of the Women’s Basketball Invitational.
After Bolden buried a three pointer to bring the Cougars to within three, she bounced the ball off her foot and out of bounds on the potential game tying possession, allowing SFA to hit a game-sealing free throw with three seconds remaining.
Charleston was lucky to even be within striking distance at the end of the game, as SFA held a 19 point lead with 11 minutes remaining in the second half.
SFA flew out of the gate by hounding the boards and playing with aggression, two traits the Cougars had prided themselves on in their previous two WBI wins. SFA built as much as a 10 point lead in the first half and led by six at halftime.
Charleston came out flat after the break, as they went the first five minutes of the second half without a basket. Meanwhile, SFA used a 10-0 run to extend their lead to 16.
The Cougars began their comeback with six minutes remaining, methodically trimming the SFA lead thanks to big shots from the senior trio of Alyssa Frye, Afreyea Tolbert, and Jill Brown.
A big three ball from junior Erin Hall closed the deficit to seven with 59 seconds remaining. After a SFA turnover, junior Christy Hewatt was fouled behind the arc and made two of three free throws to cut the lead to five with 34 seconds left.
After a series of missed free throws by SFA, Bolden knocked down the three pointer that closed the gap to just three. SFA missed the ensuing two free throws, giving the Cougars a chance at the tie with less than 10 seconds remaining, but Bolden committed her costly turnover to seal the win for SFA.
“I would put the ball in Bre Bolden’s hands again and again and again. She’s our future. She’s a freshman. She has been a part of this success. That play did not determine the outcome, the game determined the outcome,” head coach Natasha Adair said.
Frye led Charleston with 18 points, while Tolbert added 17 and Brown chipped in 10. In their final game for the College, the senior trio combined for 45 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists and nine steals.
Bolden scored 12, while junior Mikaela Hopkins tallied eight points and 10 rebounds.
“It didn’t go the way we wanted it to go, but [the players] can walk off TD Arena floor and be proud of their season and be proud of what Charleston women’s basketball stands for,” Adair said. “I’m proud of this group. The things we have accomplished this year, a new conference, the postseason, individual and team accolades, that’s what they are going to remember.”
Frye ends her career at Charleston as the school’s all time leader in three point shooting and one of the top shooters in the nation during her four year career. She also is ranked top ten all time in career scoring at the College. Frye was named to the All-CAA second team for her senior year performance.
Tolbert also leaves her mark on Charleston women’s basketball. She averaged team highs in points (14.3) and rebounds (9.0) this season, while being the Cougars’ first ever All-CAA first team selection.
The 2014-2015 season looks promising for Charleston, as they will return key contributors such as Bolden and center Mikaela Hopkins.
“Next year, I think we are in a very good position to continue. In terms of experience, such as conference and postseason experience, I think all of that will help. What we are going to have when our incoming freshman come in is upperclassmen that immediate grab them and say this is how we do it here,” Adair said.
Overall, the Charleston women recorded their second most wins in program history (19), finished third in their inaugural CAA season, and won three postseason games, including their win over Towson in the CAA Tournament. They also had staple regular season victories over James Madison and Delaware, who made the NCAA Tournament and Women’s NIT, respectfully.
“Anytime you can be playing deep in March, it talks about the quality of your team. There are a lot of teams that did not get to play in the postseason and that is for sure something that we have earned. That is your goal in any program and any sport, your goal is to play as long as you can play. I think that the bar has been raised extremely high and there is still more work to do, but we’re close,” Adair said.