Trailing by 16 points with less than three minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Buccaneers made the climb back and ultimately foiled Chattanooga 61-55 for a key Southern Conference win.
“First of all, congratulations to (Mocs) coach Jim Foster on his 900th win,” said ETSU coach Brittney Ezell. “It was an honor to be here and see them celebrate such an amazing career accomplishment. It’s pretty phenomenal. I’ve seen it from his time in Philadelphia, to Vanderbilt, to Ohio State and now to here. It’s a lot to be admired.
“As for the game, there’s no other word to describe it than tough. We did not play well in the first half. (Our players) took an earful at halftime and then came back out with a different inspiration.”
Foster hit the 900 mark on Thursday, Feb. 1, with a 58-41 win at Western Carolina. On Saturday, his team couldn’t overcome a brilliant performance by ETSU senior guard Tianna Tarter, who produced a 27-point, 10-rebound double-double to go with her five assists and three steals.
Going 9 of 18 from the field, Tarter was a bright spot in a subpar shooting performance — 34.9 percent (22-63) — by the Bucs.
Erica Haynes-Overton added 12 points and three steals for ETSU (15-10, 8-2 SoCon), which maintained sole possession of second place in the conference.
Had Chattanooga (15-9, 6-4) prevailed, they would have pulled into a tie with the Bucs. The Mocs were in prime position to do just that, leading 45-29 with 2:51 to play in the third quarter.
Before the period ended, however, Malloree Schurr, Shy Copney and Tarter each converted a 3-pointer as the gap closed to seven points (47-40).
ETSU went up 52-50 on a Tarter layup before Lakelyn Bouldin answered with a Chattanooga trey.
Another Tarter layup put the Bucs ahead for good (55-53) 2:56 from the end. After the Mocs’ Keiana Gilbert scored to make it a 57-55 game, Britney Snowden and Haynes-Overton each hit two free throws in the final 11 seconds.
ETSU outscored Chattanooga 21-8 in the fourth period, finishing their first regular-season sweep of the Mocs since 1997-98.
“We showed a lot of toughness, especially at the guard position,” Ezell said. “We played five guards to try to change the tempo, but I can’t say enough about Tianna and Shy — and Malloree hits a big shot.
“Sadasia Tipps was incredible on the defensive end. That’s a good basketball team we just beat. It was great having Erica back (from injury). Again, it’s been a game that we didn’t have our full roster. We found a way and the credit belongs to those kids and to our assistant coaches, who did a great job of staying with it. I’m thrilled for our kids. I’m thrilled for Buc fans and I’m ready to be back in Johnson City.”
Gilbert went 11 of 19 from the floor en route to a 27-point afternoon for the Mocs. Bouldin coupled 14 points with six rebounds while Arianne Whitaker grabbed 16 boards and blocked six shots.
The Bucs induced 19 Chattanooga turnovers, turning them into 26 points.