Tornados have block party in loss to USC Upstate

Box Score

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The Brevard College women’s basketball team fell by a score of 72-44 in its first-ever meeting with Division I USC Upstate on Sunday afternoon.

The Tornados were facing a Division I opponent in a regular season contest for the fourth time since attaining full NCAA membership prior to the 2008-2009 season, but freshman forward Claudia Arcega was unintimidated by the big stage. The Zaragoza, Spain native blocked five shots in the contest, tying her for third all-time in Brevard history for a single game in the NCAA era.

Arcega was the key to Brevard finishing the game with its fourth-most prolific shot-blocking day in team history. The team stuffed eight Spartans’ shots on the afternoon, equaling its eight-block performance on December 1, 2012 against Mars Hill and falling two shy of the high-water mark set against Catawba on January 11, 2012.

Arcega also chipped in a career-high seven rebounds, while Madison Lenox finished with a team-high eight. Katie Williams led the Tornados in scoring with a nine-point performance. The Spartans had four players finish in double figures. Sharmayne Edwards led all scorers with 13 points, while Raven Jefferson had 12 points and notched career highs with seven rebounds and six steals.

The Tornados remained in striking distance until midway through the second half and controlled much of the early going. A three-point play from Nicole Graham gave the Tornados an early 4-2 lead before Upstate was forced into an early timeout on a Chelsea Turner three-point basket from the left wing that gave Brevard a five-point advantage. A Turner layup on a fast break sparked by a Madison Lenox steal gave the Tornados their largest lead of the game at 9-2 nearly four minutes into the contest.

The Tornados were tenacious on the defensive end early in the contest, forcing several Spartans’ turnovers and contesting a number of passes in open space to create fast break opportunities. Claudia Arcega totaled three blocks in the game’s first eight minutes as well. But the Spartans stepped up their own defensive efforts after the first media timeout, holding Brevard without a field goal for a 5:06 span in the first half as the Spartans briefly took the lead.

After the teams traded baskets for a spell, a large Upstate run in the waning moments of the opening stanza set the stage for a dominant second-half performance by the Spartans. Brevard led 17-14 on a three-point field goal by Madison Lenox with 7:45 to play in the half, but the Spartans would answer with a 12-5 run, limiting Brevard to 1-for-6 from the field and forcing three turnovers over the next five minutes of game action.

Brevard cut the Upstate lead to two points on a jumper and three-point field goal by Katie Williams, but Edwards banked in a desperation three-point attempt from the left wing at the buzzer to give the Spartans a 30-25 lead at the break.

The home team would continue its exploits into the second half as the Spartans forced a turnover and two missed shots on Brevard’s first three second-half possessions. The Spartans quickly got a layup, came up with an easy basket off a loose ball, and scored in the paint to stretch the lead to 36-25.

With the lead hovering near 10 points, Upstate began its decisive run with 9:35 to play in the contest. The Spartans scored 18 of 20 points over the next five and a half minutes as the Tornados watched a 45-35 deficit balloon into a 63-37 Upstate lead. The Spartans made 17 of their 29 field goal attempts in the second stanza to shoot 58.6 percent from the floor. By contrast, Brevard made just 18.2 percent of its second-half attempts as Upstate outscored Brevard 42-19 over the final 20 minutes.

Upstate’s bench contributed largely to the winning effort, with the reserves accounting for 42 of the team’s 72 points. The Spartans also forced 33 Brevard turnovers, leading to a 32-12 advantage in points off turnovers for the hosts.

The Spartans are led by former Brevard coach Tammy George, who led the Tornados for two seasons in the team’s NAIA era. The Tornados enjoyed one of the most successful seasons in program history under George in the 2004-2005 campaign, finishing 21-1 in Appalachian Athletic Conference play and advancing to the NAIA Division II National Tournament. George picked up AAC Coach of the Year honors before taking over the Upstate program the following year.

Brevard’s first-ever regular season contest against a Division I school ended in a 71-61 upset victory over UNC Asheville on November 29, 2010. The Tornados fell to UNC Asheville and Presbyterian over the next two seasons before taking a break from playing any Division I opponents in last year’s campaign.

After a two-game stretch outside of conference play, the Tornados return to league action in a home contest with Anderson on Wednesday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.

Featured image courtesy of Tommy Moss.

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