Graceland Upsets Central Methodist in HAAC Tourney Quarterfinals
FAYETTE, MO - Graceland, the sixth seed in the Heart of America Athletic Conference Women's Basketball Tournament, upset third-seed Central Methodist on Thursday night inside Puckett Fieldhouse. The Yellowjackets (13-12) move on to the Semifinal Round on Saturday, while the Eagles (17-13) conclude their season.
"Going into this game, we had a few concerns about where Graceland held an advantage," Central Methodist Head Coach James Arnold stated. "Their experience of making a deep run last year in the playoffs was certainly a concern and I thought tonight that was a huge factor. Experience is a big deal, and I thought the playoff toughness they experienced last year was very beneficial."
Central Methodist started the game stong, jumping out to a 10-4 lead. Kyra Williams found the bottom of the net at the 12:28 mark in the first half to give the home team a six-point lead.
Graceland answered with a 24-8 run and took a 28-18 advantage off a fastbreak layup by Maleta Daughtery with eight minutes to go. Daughtery scored 21 of her game-high 26 points in the first 20 minutes of play.
Central Methodist's Towanda Sutton found Ashley Nyakundi for an old-fashioned three-point play at the 6:07 mark to cut deficit to six points, 28-22. The Eagles' Sammie Gathercole nailed a trey with 2:30 left in the first half to make score the score 37-30 in favor of the Yellowjackets, but the visitors took a 10-point cushion, 41-31, into halftime.
Central Methodist trimmed the margin to five points on three different occasions in the second half. Sutton hit an 18-foot bucket with 15:50 left to cut deficit to 43-38.
However, Graceland was able to withstand the Eagles' spurts. Daughtery hit a three from the corner in transition to give Graceland a 56-45 lead at the 6:20 mark.
Central Methodist cut the deficit to single digits late in the game to stay within striking Distance. Brittney Lloyd had four points in an 11 second span, the last two coming four seconds remaining in the game, making the score 59-55 with the Yellowjackets leading, but the Eagles could get no closer.
Graceland's Floria Siaosi ended with a double-double, notching 12 points and 12 rebounds. Alexis Robertson added 12 points.
Lloyd and Sutton tallied a team-high 15 points. Karli Abbey had 10 rebounds. Sami Dunger had three points in the game and wraps up her collegiate career ranked seventh on the Central Methodist women's basketball all-time scoring list with 1,309 points.
Graceland shot 37.7 percent (23-of-61) from the field, while Central Methodist hit 39.1 percent (18-of-46) from the floor. The Eagles were 66.7 percent (16-of-24) from the free throw line, and the Yellowjackets converted 69.2 percent (9-of-13) from the charity stripe.
"This was a special year," Arnold said. "In our first season, we certainly took a step forward as a program and that is thanks in large part to this group of seniors. Many were asked to accept different roles and essentially start all over, but they did it and can be very proud of being the group that turned this program in the right direction. I have no doubt that tonight's loss, although it stinks now, will be of great benefit to these underclassman next season and beyond."