Teams from the Big South and the Southern conferences met in the Far North for the third-place game of the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout on Wednesday. Coastal Carolina held off a late Western Carolina charge to come away with a 72-64 victory.
After watching his team get pummeled 89-47 by host UAA in his team's opening game, Chanticleers coach Alan LeForce was relieved to see his team rebound at Sullivan Arena.
"We needed this game," LeForce said. "After last night's fiasco, I was concerned about our team. We needed to step up for our own good and our own confidence. This shows the character of our team, bouncing back."
Coastal Carolina didn't face the same intense full-court pressure it saw against the Seawolves, but it did weather a couple of crucial Western Carolina runs. The Chanticleers responded quickly to a run by the Catamounts in the first half, then held off a late rally that trimmed a 13-point lead to three points with just over a minute remaining.
"We were a little embarrassed (Tuesday)," said junior point guard Katie Ahaus. "We wanted to show we can actually play."
A 12-0 spurt by the Catamounts midway through the first half gave Western Carolina a 25-18 advantage. But Coastal Carolina responded with a 14-0 run of its own, led by Ahaus driving the ball strong to the basket several times as well as 3-pointers from junior forward Jessica Noll and sophomore guard Olivia Irick.
"She's been a team caddy for us, but tonight she became a scorer as well as assist person," LeForce said of Ahaus, who had 10 first-half points and finished with 14. "She saw an opportunity and took advantage of it."
Coastal Carolina never trailed after its big first-half run. Still, Western Carolina turned up its aggression on the boards and put on the full-court press in the final seven minutes of the game, cutting a 13-point deficit to three points before the Chanticleers hit 6 of 8 free throws down the stretch to put the game away.
"It was more about us staying calm and relaxed and not getting in a hurry," Ahaus said of facing the late Catamount pressure. "We tried to keep it at a pace we needed."
Western Carolina trailed 59-46 before turning up the intensity. The Catamounts went on a 18-8 run, cutting the lead to 67-64 when sophomore guard Kaila'Shea Menendez took a long pass from senior guard Jessica Jackson for a transition lay-up. But Coastal Carolina's Stull and Moss each hit a pair of free throws, and Western junior forward Emily Clarke missed a pair of outside shots as Western Carolina's rally came up short.
"Obviously we have a lot to learn from this," Western Carolina coach Karen Middleton said. "We are a young team, and our challenge is to find out who we are going to be."
Menendez came off the bench to finish with a game-high 21 points for Western Carolina. She set a career high in points for the second straight night after scoring 20 in the team's loss to Cincinnati on Tuesday.
"Kaila is extremely talented," Middleton said. "She came out very aggressive and had her best games back-to-back of the season."
Western Carolina and Coastal Carolina are located about 350 miles apart, but the schools had not faced each other since 2000-01 when Western Carolina earned a 69-51 victory. In eight prior meetings Western Carolina had won six times.
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Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout
Women's 3rd place game
Coastal Carolina 72, Western Carolina 64
COASTAL CAROLINA (72)
Rivers 2-5 2-6 6, Reynolds 3-3 2-3 7, Ahau 7-13 0-1 14, Stull 0-6 11-14 11, Moss 4-7 8-10 17, Grochowski 1-2 0-0 2, Irick 2-4 0-0 6, Noll 2-4 0-0 6, Epley 0-1 0-0 0, Weaver 0-2 202 2. Totals 21-47 25-36 72.
WESTERN CAROLINA (64)
Feemster 3-5 2-2 8, Swayne 1-4 0-0 2, Jackson 0-4 3-6 3, Clarke 3-12 0-1 6, Carroll 3-8 1-2 7, McKinney 3-3 1-2 7, Ferguson 1-1 1-2 3, Menendez 5-11 10-10 21, Price 3-8 0-0 6, Belcher 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 22-56 19-27 64.
Three-point goals -- Coastal Carolina 5-8 (Irick 2-2, Noll 2-3, Moss 1-1, Stull 0-1, Weaver 0-1). Western Carolina 1-9 (Menendez 1-3, Clarke 0-3, Swayne 0-2, Jackson 0-1). Total fouls -- Coastal Carolina 20. Western Carolina 28. Fouled out -- None. Rebounds -- Coastal Carolina 34 (Moss 8). Western Carolina 35 (Feemster, Menendez 7). Turnovers -- Coastal Carolina 18. Western Carolina 11. Assists -- Coastal Carolina 11 (Ahaus, Irick 3). Western Carolina 19 (Jackson 9). Steals -- Coastal Carolina 4. Western Carolina 9 (Swayne 4). Blocked shots -- Coastal Carolina 2. Western Carolina 3. Officials -- Corson, Tovoli, McNew.
CC 41 31 -- 72
WC 34 30 -- 64
By RICHARD LARSON