ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Appalachian State University women’s basketball (19-14) advances to the second round of the Women’s Basketball Invitational with a nail-biting 57-55 win over UNCA (17-15) on Wednesday evening in Kimmel Arena.
The Mountaineers will play Marshall inside the Holmes Center on Monday, March 25 at 6:30 p.m. in the second round after the Thundering Herd defeated Davidson, 67-64, on Monday. Appalachian State dealt Marshall a 74-52 defeat earlier this season at home.
Three players led the team in double figures with Madi Story (Maiden, N.C./Bandys) pouring in a team-high 18 points on an efficient 8-of-13 shooting, while Ashley Polacek (Ottawa, Canada/UCF) tallied 16 points, 12 of which came in the second half. Pre Stanley (Rockledge, Fla./Rockledge) rounded out the leading scorers with her fourth straight game with 15 points and a personal-high three trifectas. The trio scored 49 of the 57 points including the final 15 points of the game.
Bayley Plummer (Thomasville, N.C./East Davidson) was a defensive anchor in the paint, snagging a game-high 13 rebounds and blocking a pair of shots. The junior is now three boards away from moving into fourth place all-time with 930 rebounds, which would surpass Shannon Thomas (1988-92).
It was an all-around effort on defense, limiting UNCA to 33.9 percent shooting from the field and 33 percent shooting from the field. The stingy defense held an opponent to 60 points or less for the sixth time in the past nine games and improves to 18-0 when allowing 70 points or less.
With 1:20 left in the contest and the game tied at 53-53, Stanley rose up for the go-ahead 3-pointer that gave the Mountaineers a 56-53 advantage. She later hit a free throw to make the game 57-53
in the Black and Gold’s favor with 37 seconds left. UNCA hit two free throws to cut the gap to one possession, 57-55, and later had a chance to go for the win or tie with 2.2 seconds left. However, UNCA wouldn’t get the shot off in time, sealing Appalachian’s first postseason win since 2012 and the first postseason tournament win under head coach Angel Elderkin.
App State dominated the start of the game, rushing out to a 9-0 advantage capped off by five straight points from Stanley. Appalachian held UNCA scoreless for the first 5:31 of the contest, while UNCA wouldn’t
hit its first field goal until the 3:40 mark of the period. The Bulldogs closed the gap to three, 9-6, before App ended the quarter with a 10-0 surge over the final 3:15 of the frame to go into the second period with a 19-6 lead.
UNCA stormed back scoring the first 12 points of the second quarter to bring the App lead down to one, 19-18. Coming out of a timeout, Appalachian responded by hitting four of its next five shots to go in front, 27-22. Tierra Wilson (Winston-Salem, N.C./RJ Reynolds) later hit a 3-pointer with 32 seconds left in the half to push the App lead back up to five (32-27) after the hosts closed the gap to one possession. A pair of free throws by Jessica Wall (UNCA) gave Appalachian a 32-39 lead heading into the break.
The Bulldogs stayed within striking distance but couldn’t get past the Mountaineers. Neither team scored until the 6:24 point of the quarter when Story hit a mid-range jumper. App and UNCA traded scores on the next
four possessions that kept the Mountaineers’ lead to three, 39-36. Maya Calder (Landover, Md./National Christian Academy) scored the next three points for the Apps to stretch their edge to 42-36. The lead stayed at six for the Mountaineers, 44-38, going into
the final quarter.
UNCA tied it on two occasions late in the fourth quarter, but both times Polacek scored on the next possession including a layup when the game was knotted up 51-51. Appalachian made timely plays and stops in the gritty win, improving to 6-1 in games decided by five points or less.
Appalachian is now 5-0 all-time in the WBI, while it’s now 15-4 against UNC Asheville. The Mountaineers go into matchup against the Thundering Herd winners of seven of their previous nine games.
“Today was a gritty win for our team. UNC Asheville is a great program with four straight years of postseason experience. We earned another 40 minutes together, and I’m so proud of the team and the staff.” – Head Coach Angel Elderkin