Lancers take down reigning Big South Champion

Published 7:04 pm Wednesday, January 26, 2022

A statement win.

It was a fight to the final buzzer, but it was Longwood Women’s Basketball team who took down the reigning Big South Champions the High Point Panthers 77-63 on Tuesday night in stellar fashion.

“From my first year here until now, this all shows how badly we want this,” said Tra’Dayja Smith on the statement win against High Point. “All the steps we’ve taken so far had led up to this moment. We just have to keep remembering who we are. We know we have a top shot blocker, a top scorer, we know we have the person who can get the steals and we just have to keep playing to our strengths and who we are as a team.”

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“It shows how much growth we made since I was a freshman in the program rebuilding, and now we’re able to compete with the one’s and two’s in this league,” said junior guard Kyla McMakin. “We’re sitting at two right now and it feels good to get a win over them. Last year we had the opportunity to be in second, but we lost the game. So to be in second, and sitting on the top of the league with all the rebuilding we have committed to from the ground up, all of us, it’s a huge deal.”

Longwood (10-10, 7-2 Big South) did what they came there to do in High Point, N.C. on Tuesday with a double-digit victory over High Point (6-11, 3-3 Big South). In first half action, Longwood came out as the aggressor with pressure on defense and junior guard Kyla McMakin’s hot hand. McMakin grabbed eight alone in the first quarter, 11 in the first half with teammates Akila Smith and Adriana Shipp adding to the total creating a modest seven point lead going into halftime.

It was not secret it was going to be a physical battle full of back and forth action on both teams. Early in the game the two exchanged runs evenly, feeding into the highly anticipated matchup. Smith owned the paint on Longwood’s end, with all eight of her first half points within the 15-foot mark. Shipp showcased her confidence in attacking the basket and earning points at the free throw line, going 4-4, and finished with six points total in the first half.

Free throws are make or break some might say – on Tuesday it seemed to be the difference. In the first half alone, the Lancers’ free throw percentage was the difference maker as the team shot 75.0 percent (83.3 percent final) while High Point was less than 50 (50 % final).

“At the end of the game, we don’t care who gets the points, who gets the steal, who gets the rebound, we just want to win,” said Smith. “Teams want to be in that position where it’s all about winning not the stats. Once we get into this mindset, that’s where we thrive.”

“We’re such a fighting team,” said McMakin. “Whatever they hit us with, we’re going to hit them back harder and get back up. I think that’s what makes us so great. Everyone on this team down to the freshman, we just play with fearlessness, and come out swinging and tonight that showed.”

A historic season for Longwood had a new addition on Tuesday, with history being made by McMakin. McMakin not only hit a final second three to go into halftime, she hit one out of the gun in the third quarter to push her past the 20 point mark (25 points total) putting her tied for the program record for most consecutive 20 plus games in a row (4).

“I’m just trying to come out every night and repeat what I did the game before. I don’t want to just think of scoring and getting the points, but I want to just keep playing great basketball with my team,” said McMakin.

A shaky first quarter dug the Panthers in a hole they couldn’t fight out of. Closing the second quarter with an 11-3 run in Longwood’s favor set the tone for the second half. Switching leads up until that point, Longwood came out ready to dominate in the fourth quarter and held the Panthers with no score for three minutes to start the final 10 minutes of the game.

“Only five games ago, we needed to figure out stuff as a team and I think our women were just like, let’s do it and figure it out as a team.” said Head Coach Rebecca Tillett. “The positivity and strength that comes from the leadership on this team, as a coaching staff we’re pumped for them. They put in all this work and for it to pay off, and reap the benefits of three in a row. We’ll enjoy today and continue on with our bigger goals we have for the season.”

Despite another great offensive performance by the Lancers, High Point’s Jordan Edwards, Cydney Johnson and Claire Wyatt carried the offensive push for the Panthers, Wyatt with a final 15 points going 6-15 from the field with six rebounds lead the fast breaks. It was Jenson Edwards in the first half with 10 rebounds (finish 11) who allowed the second chances early for the Panthers.

Second chance opportunities wins games. A trend that has been the difference between wins and loses for the Lancers all season long. Tonight it was Longwood who out played their opponent for those second chances – and it made that difference.

“As coaches we try not to feel too happy in these moments, but anytime you get to do something for the first time, or the first time in a long time, it’s great for the women in this program,” said Coach Tillett. “When you think about Akila and Milou who have been here since freshman year, and everything those two have put in until now in order to be in the spot we are, I think it’s fun to look back on the process and how we got here, and then look forward to the work we have in front of us.”

As for Longwood, they have now strung together yet another game with four players scoring in double figures (McMakin 25, A. Smith 13, Tra’Dayja Smith 19, Shipp 10). Tra’Dayja Smith kept her hand hot from behind the arch grabbing two more three pointers on the year and going 4-10 from the field, while adding five assists to her total, putting her with 104 assists on the year.

Longwood finishes its three games in a four day span 3-0, improving its overall record to 10-10. They prepare for its next game this Saturday against Radford in another fight on the road.