Longwood women bow out in Big South Quarterfinals

Published 9:58 pm Thursday, March 7, 2024

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It was a basketball season that started with the opening of a new home arena, and finished with a surge of improvement that had the Longwood women playing toe-to-toe with the best of the Big South.

The visible progress sharpened the sting when the 2023-24 campaign came to a close Thursday, as No. 7 seed Longwood fell 60-37 to No. 2 seed USC Upstate in the quarterfinals of the Hercules Tires Big South Tournament at the Quebein Center.

Senior Anne-Hamilton LeRoy led Longwood with 11 points in her final game as a Lancer, but couldn’t keep up with the hot-shooting Spartans, who hit nine 3-point attempts to Longwood’s none, and held the Lancers to just 12 points after halftime.

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“Sadly we were not the best version of ourselves tonight,” Head Coach Eirka Lang-Montgomery said. “I give Upstate a lot of credit. They came out strongly defensively to take away what we were trying to do, and we struggled tonight from the perimeter.”

Hoping for a deeper run

Longwood was hoping for a deeper run in the post-season. But considering where the Lancers were a month ago, there was a satisfaction knowing this was a team that got visibly better in the final weeks of the season – winning three of their last four regular season contests, and taking conference regular season champion High Point to the wire last Saturday.

The Lancers started the year 1-10 against an exceptionally tough non-conference schedule, then went 2-6 in the Big South over their first month of conference play.

But they continued to battle, and seemed to click into gear over the final weeks of the season, with vastly improved defense, and junior guard Malea Brown emerging as a leader on offense. Longwood won three straight in late February heading into the regular season finale last Saturday at first-place High Point, where they built a double-digit second half lead but fell 61-58 after a game-tying 3-point attempt rimmed out in the final seconds.

“We lost some close games but we continued to fight, but that was something I really liked about our team, how they fought” Lang-Montgomery said. “After a slow start, I felt like we were playing some really good basketball the latter part of February, and even once we got into conference play we were starting to find our groove a little. We had some close games we didn’t pull out, but as the season went along we were able to get some good wins at home and on the road.”

Longwood women battle back

Longwood fell behind by double digits earlier but battled back and cut the Upstate lead to 20-19 on a pair of free throws by Kiki McIntyre 6:19 before halftime. But their shooting touch went cold, and the Spartans rebuilt the lead to 33-25 on a 3-pointer just before halftime by Dakota Reeves, who led Upstate with 15 points. The Lancers never got closer after halftime.

LeRoy finished her career 30th all-time in Big South scoring with 1,465 career points, eighth all-time at Longwood, and was fourth all-time in the Big South in games played with 144. Teammate Adrianna Shipp-Davis is also in the 1,000-point club, and topped 500 career rebounds.

The pair helped the Longwood women to their first Big South championship in 2022 and got to play in March Madness, where they won a first-round NCAA Division I Tournament game, the first in school history. Afterward, they stayed to provide veteran leadership to a rebuilding program, got to play in the new Joan Perry Brock Center, and wrote their names in the Longwood record books.

“Just from the moment I stepped foot on campus, I could have never imagined everything that was to come,” LeRoy said. “I learned how to trust the process, and I learned that things are bigger than your performance. I’ve really come to love the relationships, and the people I’ve been able to play with and spend that time with, and the coaches that I had.”

“I’m really thankful to Coach E and just all the memories — the people I’ve met and the places I’ve been,” she said. “I’m excited to keep up with this program. The future looks bright. I’m excited to be a Lancer.”