Wheeling Women Fall in MEC Semifinals

WHEELING — With 5:57 left in the third quarter, the No. 13-ranked Charleston women’s basketball team faced not only a two-point deficit to Wheeling, it was going to be without Mountain East Conference Player of the Year Brooklyn Pannell as she picked up her fourth foul just seconds earlier.

The Golden Eagles, though, did not show any signs of panic as they finished the third quarter on a 15-1 run. It then transitioned into a 20-1 spurt and held the Cardinals without a field goal for more than 10 minutes in a 71-55 MEC Tournament semifinal victory Saturday at WesBanco Arena.

Charleston will take on Glenville State in the MEC championship. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. Sunday.

“It was a very tough game. Hats off to Wheeling. I thought they did a phenomenal job especially in the first half,” Charleston coach Tianni Kelly said. “I was so proud of the way our girls continued to fight back. It was a rough first half. For them to come back in the second, stay composed and continue to fight on defense, they just fought hard. I’m proud of them.”

Wheeling, ended the second quarter on a 9-3 run to take a 33-27 lead in at halftime as Charleston struggled from the field hitting only 26.5% of its shots (9 of 34).

Jacqui Hinesmon broke a 37-37 tie with 5:57 left to go in the third to give the Cardinals the lead back. It was their last lead of the game and basket for the rest of the period.

“We played a great first half,” Wheeling coach Mike Llanas said. “We had some kids stepped up. We were in a great position and that put a lot of pressure on them in the second half.”

Erykah Russell tied the game with a bucket that started the spurt, but it was Dakota Reeves who put Charleston up to stay, 42-39. Reeves drained a 3-pointer to give the Golden Eagles its first lead of the game since 8:49 left in the first quarter.

After a Hinesmon free throw with 3:48 left in the third, the Cardinals did not score a point for over eight minutes. Hinesmon ended the scoring drought hitting a jumper with 5:10 left in the fourth.

She finished with a team-high 14 points for Wheeling while Lilly Ritz supplied another double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds.

For the Golden Eagles, Anastasiia Zakharova and Reeves netted 15 points while Erykah Russell chipped in 12.

“You can see the progression,” Llanas said about his program taking the next step in his third year as coach. “We know what we need to do. Our recruits were here Thursday and they were here (Saturday) watching us play and understanding what is needed to break into that final game and ultimately vying for an NCAA tournament. We’re building this the right way. We’ve been dedicated to the students and players that dedicated themselves to this program especially our seniors (Kelsi Chapman and Tori Harrison). We were thanking them in this process of building. The future is bright.”


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