Lady Bulldogs survive Coker in OT, 81-71

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Long after the final buzzer sounded in Tuesday’s 81-71 overtime victory for the Barton College women’s basketball team, junior guard Dinah Neal emerged from the locker room.

Many miles remain to be traveled for the Lady Bulldogs this season on the road to a championship in any form, but Neal had no problem volunteering for a karaoke moment after Barton dispatched Coker College inside Wilson Gym.

To the tune of Queen’s “We Are The Champions,” Neal bellowed: “We’re undefeated!”

Indeed, for the first time since the 2010-11 season, the Lady Bulldogs have started a season with a 3-0 record. That team started 4-0 and went on to win 26 games and reach the semifinals of the NCAA Division II Southeast Region tournament.

But Barton’s path to win No. 3 was in no way easy, despite a blistering start that threatened to run the South Atlantic Conference Lady Cobras (1-2) out of the building. Buoyed by an active 2-3 matchup zone — aptly dubbed “Syracuse” by the Barton staff — the Lady Bulldogs jumped out to a commanding 16-2 lead in limiting Coker to a putrid 1-for-11 start from the floor. For the game, Barton connected on 22 of 62 shots for 35.5 percent accuracy, while Coker was 29 for 74 for a 39.2-percent clip.

Sophomore Summer Baer’s 3-pointer with 38 seconds left in the quarter helped Barton to a 24-12 lead after one quarter.

But in the second quarter, turnovers and poor shooting caught up with the Lady Bulldogs. Coker’s Erin Houser, who finished with 15 points off the bench, hit a jumper to tie the game at 33 at the half.

At halftime, four of Barton’s five starters had at least two giveaways en route to 25 total turnovers.

“We had 12 turnovers at halftime, which is not something we want, but it’s not terrible,” veteran Barton head coach Wendee Saintsing. “I’m disappointed with the 25 at the end of the game because I think in the fourth quarter that we could have won the game if we didn’t have a lot of the turnovers that we had.”

However, behind Neal and redshirt senior Alex Kimble, the Lady Bulldogs relentlessly reached the foul line in the second half. Both Neal and Kimble finished with 27 points and led an impressive Barton showing at the foul line, where the Lady Bulldogs were 30 of 34. Neal was accurate on 17 of 18 effort from the line, while Kimble hit 10 of 12. Conversely, the Lady Cobras were held to just a 9-for-11 effort from the charity stripe.

Barton led by as many as seven in the third quarter and took a 56-51 edge into the fourth after redshirt junior Alonna Terrell grabbed a missed layup and stuck it back in at the buzzer.

Yet in the fourth, Barton was plagued by a scoring drought where it didn’t make a field goal for over seven minutes. That allowed Coker to grab a 65-60 lead before Kimble hit the first of two clutch 3-pointers. Her trey with 81 seconds left brought Barton to within two, and her layup tied it at the 1:08 mark.

Barton put Coker on the line with 8.1 seconds left, but Aloni McFarland missed both free throws. In overtime, Barton made nine foul shots, and Kimble’s 3-pointer with 1:03 to go put Barton up 76-71 as the Lady Bulldogs finished on an 8-0 run.

Hayley Kropp had 19 points to lead Coker, while Janea Williams had a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds.