Jennings leads Chowan

Published 9:40 pm Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lady Hawk Ransheda Jennings, a King’s Fork High School alum, goes for a basket against a Virginia Union defender during Wednesday’s CIAA tournament. Chowan University stunned the Northern Division champion team by beating them 52-38.

Cinderella has crashed the CIAA tournament.

Chowan, which entered the tournament seeded fifth out of its division, stunned Northern Division champion Virginia Union 52-38 on Wednesday at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C., to advance to the tournament’s semifinals.

Talaya Lynch, who led all players with 19 points to go with 12 rebounds, made her last four foul shots and made a pretty pass to Ransheda Jennings for a big basket late in the game as the Hawks (12-16) closed a close game against Virginia Union (12-14) with a methodical 17-3 run in the game’s final 8:54, turning a tie game at 35 into a shocking upset.

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On Tuesday, in the first round of the tournament, Chowan had used a similar, frantic, 13-4 spurt and a Jennings runner with 4 seconds left to clip upset Fayetteville State and move into the second round.

“We knew we had a chance coming in to this game to do this,” said Chowan coach Patrick Mashuda. “We knew we had this in us.”

Chowan (12-16) will face the winner of Wednesday’s later game between Johnson C. Smith and Winston-Salem State in the tournament’s semifinals at 3 p.m. on Friday.

It is the furthest Chowan has advanced in the tournament since joining the CIAA in 2009.

“We’re going to embrace the process,” Mashuda said. “The arena is going to be full on Friday, and we’re looking forward to that. We talked about this, that this is where we want the program to go. We want to be here on the Friday of the tournament.”

Jennings, a King’s Fork High School alum, added 14 points and five rebounds for the Hawks, while All-Rookie selection Summer Curtis led all players with 13 rebounds. T’Arra Autting added 11 boards.

Collier, who was limited by foul trouble, finished with a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. No other Virginia Union player finished in double figures scoring, as the Panthers were held to 27 percent shooting and a season-low 38 points.

Chowan used tenacious defense and rebounding to formulate the recipe for the stunner. The Hawks finished the game shooting just 28 percent from the field, but held a 54-44 edge on the glass and scored 18 points off 20 Lady Panthers turnovers.

“We’re a team that has to get on a run,” said Virginia Union coach Barvenia Wooten-Cherry. “And today we just couldn’t put it together. (The Hawks) were a little more active defensively, and even when we tried to change offenses … they had an answer.”

Both teams were sluggish in the first half, with neither doing much offensively. Chowan held an advantage on the glass and forced 14 turnovers, which enabled the Hawks to build a 16-10 lead with 8:17 to go in the period.

But shooting just 22 percent, Chowan could never pull away, and despite serious foul trouble in the first half — Collier had to hit the bench with three personals with 3:44 to go — Virginia Union went into the break down just 21-18.

Lynch, though, carried Chowan, leading all players with 11 points to go with seven rebounds in the first half. Cutting added eight boards in the first period as the Hawks scored 16 points off of turnovers to lead despite hitting just 7 of 32 shots from the field.

The game remained close in the opening minutes of the second half. Chowan built a five-point edge, 35-30, until the Panthers’ Valentina Wheeler hit a 3-pointer and a baseline jumper on back-to-back possessions to knot the game at 35 with just under 9 minutes remaining.

But after that it was all Chowan, which split the season series with Virginia Union, beating the Panthers on Feb. 13.

“We felt confident playing Union,” Mashuda said. “It gave us a lot of faith that we could come in here and compete with them.”

And while the numbers weren’t perfect, Mashuda and the Hawks will take it.

“At this time of year, there are only two numbers on the stat sheet that I’m really concerned about, and I like those two numbers today,” he said.