The Chattanooga women’s basketball team clinched the Southern Conference Regular Season championship with Monday’s 68-59 victory over Davidson-it’s second over the No. 2 Wildcats this season.
And while the Lady Mocs still have one league game remaining before the start of next week’s SoCon tournament, the squad can finally breath collective a sigh of relief after locking up its first conference crown in two years.
“This was a stressful day leading up to the game,” UTC coach Wes Moore said. “Our kids have just been great. The consistency, their work ethic night in and night out and their effort. And yet, we had a one-game lead. I just wanted to make sure that these kids got rewarded for all their hard work.”
Thanks to a strong second-half showing, they were.
Junior Ashlen Dewart scored a game-high 24 points on 8 of 11 shooting for the Lady Mocs (25-3, 18-1 SoCon)-her 10th 20-point scoring performance this season-and the 6-4 forward brought down a team-high nine rebounds as well.
Dewart, along with junior Taylor Hall, also limited Davidson senior Sofia Aleksandravicius to just seven second-half points.
“I don’t know if we did a whole lot different, we just probably did it better,” Moore said on his team’s defense on the 6-6 forward in the second half.
Aleksandravicius, the SoCon’s leading rebounder (9.8 rpg) and No. 3 scorer (15.7 ppg), finished with 18 points along with a game-high 10 rebounds for the visiting Wildcats (18-10, 5-3), but her second-half performance wasn’t near as dominant as the first, particularly in the game’s opening minutes.
“I think it was just taking the lob [pass] away,” Dewart said. “Pretty much all of her points in the first half came from the lob. It just came down to us wanting to stop that and us pushing her down. I think that was the difference in the second half.”
Aleksandravicius notched 10 points in the game’s first 10 minutes, and she scored eight straight midway through the opening period, putting her team in front 16-11 with 10:39 left.
UTC took the lead on a three-point play from Dewart with 3:17 remaining, moments later sophomore Ka’Vonne Towns knocked down a big 3-pointer and the Lady Mocs went into the locker room ahead 31-28 at the break.
Davidson pushed back in the second half, but never managed to reclaim the lead in the second half.
Back-to-back buckets from Dewart put UTC ahead 49-42 around the nine-minute mark, and senior Kayla Christopher buried her second trey of the contest to increase her team’s lead to 54-46 with 7:20 to play.
“We said no,” said Christopher, who finished with 11 points three assists and two boards. “We didn’t want to lose tonight. We played hard. We might not have always done the right things, but I think we had a lot of energy.
“This is what our goal was at the beginning of the year. We came in, stayed focused and got it done.”
Freshman Tatianna Jackson scored nine points in the hard-fought win-a school-record 26th straight at home-Hall contributed eight points, while freshmen Alicia Payne and Towns each added six.
Chattanooga closes out its regular-season schedule Saturday at Appalachian State. The Lady Mocs play at 2 p.m., followed by the UTC men’s game against the Mountaineers at 4:30 p.m.
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.