Elon Women’s basketball Head Coach Charlotte Smith could barely hold back a grin as she applauded her team’s effort and determination against Davidson College Feb. 10.
At that point, Davidson, which was up by 15 points, began to see its lead whittle away and eventually disappear, as Elon began to hit the shots that had refused to fall in the game’s first 28 minutes.
Thirteen seconds later, Dakota Dukes, Davidson’s leading scorer with 18 points, hit a layup inside to put her team back up by one.
But Elon was not fazed by another deficit. Junior forward Sam Coffer knocked down a pair of free throws with 1:30 remaining to give the Phoenix the lead back, this time for good.
Freshman guard Lauren Brown then drew a foul on an aggressive drive to the bucket and sank both her foul shots to give the Phoenix a 65-62 lead with 1:06 remaining.
Elon fouled Davidson junior forward Hannah Early, who made the first free throw but missed the second. The Wildcats grabbed the rebound and reset their offense, down 65-63. A Davidson miss in the lane followed by two missed free throws by Brown gave the Wildcats one last shot to win or send it to overtime.
But Elon was able to get the stop it needed, thanks in part to Davidson senior guard Shneeka Corner missing three shots from inside the paint that could have sent the game into overtime. But Corner, who finished with 12 points, short-armed her first attempt after making a nice spinning move toward the baseline to elude the Phoenix defense. She got her own rebound, but was blocked by junior center Shannen Cochraham. She went up with it again, right before the buzzer sounded, but the ball bounced off the rim, and the Phoenix won.
Elon couldn’t get anything to fall in the first half, shooting a dismal 22 percent from the field. Yet somehow, Elon remained within striking distance for much of the half.
Smith stressed to her frustrated players that their shots would begin to fall, and that they needed to remain confident and control only what they could control — their defensive intensity and winning the battle on the boards. Do that, she said, and their cold shooting would sort itself out.
“At each timeout, we talked about just (continuing) to shoot,” Smith said. “(We told them) just continue to shoot the ball; that it would fall. We needed the shooter to be confident that it was going in.”
With 5:50 left before intermission and a seven point lead, the Wildcats finally began to create some separation, going on a 12-6 run to stretch their lead to 35-22 at halftime.
At the start of the second half, the Phoenix attempted to claw their way back into the game, but the Wildcats answered each Phoenix bucket to maintain their comfortable lead.
After Murray hit a long 3-pointer from the left wing as the shot clock expired and junior guard Shannon Eriksson hit one of two free throws with 11:20 left, it appeared that the Wildcats would be well on their way to victory. But the Phoenix wouldn’t be denied, as Coffer would hit four straight free throws to begin the Phoenix’s improbable comeback.
"I'm definitely excited to pull this one off and I'm really pleased with the way we came out and played the second half," Smith said. “I feel like we came out with a lot of momentum and defensive intensity. I think that sparked our offense and we were able to knock down shots in the second half and we were just rolling from there."
“In the beginning of the season we were having a lot of close games, and we were always coming out on the short end,” Stephenson said. “It’s really nice to have a close game again and (come out) on top.”
The win was also important, Smith pointed out, because of what’s facing the Phoenix in the weeks to come.
“We have a tough schedule ahead of us with a lot of games on the road,” Smith said. “So it feels good when you take advantage of your home opportunities and get these wins.”
The win moves Elon to 11-12 overall, and 7-5 in SoCon play. The Phoenix had three score in double figures, led by Zora Stephenson, who led all scorers with 19. Sam Coffer added 15, and Harris finished with 14.
The Phoenix will hit the road for a two-game road trip, which starts at 7 p.m. Feb. 15 at Western Carolina University.