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ECU women close out Niners

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East Carolina's Thais Oliveira, right, and Charlotte's Laia Raventos go after a loose ball during their game on Nov. 30, 2017. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, November 30, 2017

When the East Carolina women’s basketball team committed its 28th and final foul against Charlotte in the first game of Thursday night’s doubleheader in Minges Coliseum, Pirate coach Heather Macy was almost out of options with post players.

Yet an undersized lineup helped the Pirates close out a 58-55 victory, including backup guard Justice Gee cooly dropping in both of her free throws with 11.1 seconds remaining to create the final margin.

Both teams came in with 2-4 records, and the Pirates were helped out by the visitors going 15-of-30 from the free throw line compared to 5-of-10 by ECU. Charlotte missed a potential tying 3-pointer during the final seconds and the rebound was grabbed by ECU freshman Ariyana Williams, who had 14 points. Fellow rookie guard Necole Hope scored 15.

“We played with five guards there in the final minute of the basketball game and, man, they went in and scrapped,” said Macy, who is now 2-2 against the 49ers in her eight seasons at East Carolina. “When Ariyana got that final rebound (only her second in the game), that was just incredibly big for our team.”

Charlotte was 6-2 in the previous eight meetings in the series, including a 15-point win a season ago.

ECU also was mired in a four-game losing streak earlier this month, but Thursday’s win gave it consecutive victories for the first time this year.

The hosts led for 29:41 of the 40 minutes, leaning on their guards and underclassmen during the final minutes to complete the victory. Williams hit a 3-pointer on an assist by Alex Frazier to make it 56-53 ECU with 2:35 remaining.

Pirate starting center Thais Oliveira fouled out with the score knotted at 53-53 at the 2:52 mark. She had 10 points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes.

ECU’s other senior, Mickayla Sanders, fouled out with her team up by 1 at the 1:09 mark.

“Maybe we can recruit some more Pirate women’s basketball fans if they came early for the men’s tip and saw what we were doing and saw with our kids that the effort level and energy was good,” Macy said.

Cold shooting by the Pirates for most of the third quarter took away the lead they firmly built during the first half, when they were up by as many as 14 points. An 8-0 run by Charlotte gave it a 41-39 edge late in the third for its first lead since it was 5-4 Niners.

ECU led 15-10 after the first and then got hot from the outside early in the second period. Hope and Williams made 3s on consecutive Pirate possessions, and Williams hit again with a swish from the wing for a 24-14 ECU advantage with 6:33 until halftime.

East Carolina’s largest lead of 14 came when it was 30-16 at the 4:03 mark of the second quarter after a Destiny Campbell inside bucket. The Pirates led 31-25 at the break.

Hope scored 10 points in the first half on 4-of-8 shooting from the field. ECU also held a 14-5 edge in points off turnovers.

“Anybody loves to win and we’ve worked hard and we deserve to win and have pushed through it and stayed together,” Hope said.

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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