The UNC Asheville Bulldogs remain in first place after their 68-59 win Tuesday against Presbyterian College. The Bulldogs improve to 15-4 and 8-2 in the Big South Conference halfway through the schedule.
“It’s fun to be playing for first. At the same time, there’s ten games left,” said Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick, UNCA women’s basketball coach. “I just tell our kids run hard from the front.”
The Bulldogs stayed ahead of the Blue Hose once Khaila Webb, sophomore guard, hit a pullup jumper to take the lead 9-8. Webb scored six of her 12 points in the first quarter.
Chatori Major, junior guard, led the Bulldogs in scoring with a game-high 17 points and Bronaza “Bree” Fitzgerald, sophomore center, finished with 13 points. Fitzgerald collected eight rebounds, one behind teammate freshman Sonora Dengokl, who also contributed meaningful minutes and four points.
“I feel like I played good, especially at the beginning of the game,” Fitzgerald said. “I just realized nobody can really guard me or box me out, so my main goal is when I see a disadvantage, go for it.”
Fitzgerald’s best run came in a second half sequence where she scored, grabbed three rebounds and finished an old fashioned 3-point play from the free throw line. Overall, the Bulldogs finished hitting 52.2 percent of their free throws for the game.
“They improved throughout the game,” Fitzgerald said.
UNCA hit only 2-of-11 free throws in the first half, but improved by hitting 10-of-12 in the second half. The Bulldogs made six foul shots in the last two minutes to seal the win as Presbyterian began a full court press that cut the lead to 63-56 with 1:06 left in the game.
The Blue Hose struggled from the 3-point line, going only 4-of-28 for the game and 1-of-14 in the first half. Cortney Storey and Aianna Kelly, Presbyterian guards, fouled out in the second half.
“Presbyterian, I believe, had been playing the best of any league team in the Big South,” Kirkpatrick said. “They were obviously at seven and two, but had been pounding people and holding them in the forties in terms of scoring. So I’m really proud of our girls.”
UNCA accounts for two of Presbyterian’s three conference losses. The Bulldogs share first place in the Big South Conference with Liberty University, who knocked Gardner-Webb out of first and into a second place tie with Presbyterian. The Bulldogs travel to Radford University to face the Highlanders Saturday. Radford is 6-4 in the Big South. Tipoff is at 2 p.m.