Women’s Basketball wins USA South Tournament, Loses in First Round of NCAA Tournament

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PHOTO / BRYCE GRIGGS

The Piedmont College women’s basketball team finished another historic season after losing in the first round of the NCAA Division III Tournament on March 1. Despite the loss, the Lady Lions still completed an incredible season which included numerous team achievements and individual awards. Some of the major highlights from the season include, junior guard Amari Price breaking the single-season assist record against Agnes Scott on Jan. 16, freshman forward Hope Franklin being named USA South Rookie of the Week on Feb. 4, and the Lady Lion’s securing their fourth consecutive 20-win season against Maryville College on the road on Feb. 9. Even with all the achievements during the regular season, the Lady Lions knew they would have to play their very best during the conference tournament.

From the very beginning of the tournament, the Lady Lions looked to be operating in top form. Their high scoring offense, combined with stellar defense allowed for the team to average a double-digit margin of victory in the tournament, winning by an average of 17.7 points. The victories included a dominant 84-53 win over Mary Baldwin in the quarterfinals and a solid 68-53 win against Huntington, a team that the Lady Lions had just lost to three weeks before, in the Semifinals.

“I think just losing on Senior Night to Huntington really set a fire under us, making us want to win again,” said Kelly Ackerman, a junior guard for the Lady Lions. “Knowing that we can [win], and that we just had an off game just helped us. And especially with the student section that came, just helped us fuel that win to get us to the championship again. Basically, the student section that came gave us that energy to win.”

Following the semifinal win against Huntington, the Piedmont College women’s basketball team was crowned USA South Tournament Champions for the third-straight year. The Lady Lions were able to hold off Berea College 74-67 behind stellar play from Amari Price, who was named Tournament MVP. Price led all Lady Lions in scoring with 16 points in the championship game and was followed closely behind by Kelly Ackerman who scored 15 points while shooting 40 percent from three-point range. In front of the largest crowd of the season, The Lady Lions put the exclamation point on an already incredible season.

“Once again, the student section, the energy that they brought to us fueled us. Without them, I don’t think we would have won the game,” said Ackerman. The team as a whole felt that the championship was a testament of all the hard work throughout the season.

“All that hard work we put in at the beginning of the season, middle of the season, it all paid off. With all the work we put in, it just felt so good to see the clock go down to zero and see that we won.”

After guaranteeing themselves an NCAA Division III Tournament invitation with the USA South Championship, the Lady Lions prepared to travel to Lexington, Kentucky, to face nationally ranked Transylvania University. The Lady Lions fought hard but were unable to overcome a halftime deficit of 18 points to the 20th-ranked team in the country. Though the trip didn’t go how the team was hoping for, they were still thankful for the opportunity to go.

Freshman Hope Franklin added her team-leading sixth double-double, scoring 15 points. PHOTO / BRYCE GRIGGS

“It’s an honor to go, it’s hard to get there. It’s honestly a privilege to get there. It’s something that a lot of teams dream of, but they can never get there,” said Ackerman. Though they are just weeks removed from the end of the season, the team’s focus has already shifted to next season, and the work they have before them.

“It feels amazing, especially being back to back to back conference champions. I mean, it puts a lot of pressure on us for next year to perform at the level we did and bring home another conference championship.”

Piedmont College looks forward to seeing the Lady Lions back in action in the fall as they start a fresh campaign towards another conference championship.