Peter Koutroumpis (@pksport)
RALEIGH, N.C.- For anyone walking by Reynolds Coliseum on Thursday, the noise they would have heard was not from tailgating Wolfpack fans prepping for Saturday’s First-round NCAA Tournament game.
No, that was the contingent of First Four fans, all 648 of them, enjoying the experience of being a part of March Madness history.
They were witness to one of the Tournament’s first-ever play-in games as the Longwood Lancers earned a hard-fought 74-70 victory over the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers.
While Mount St. Mary’s was playing in their fourth NCAA Tournament, Longwood had never played in the NCAA postseason, so it was a special occasion for their fans.
“These three leaders and captains right here lead us all the way to this magical moment,” Longwood head coach Rebecca Tillett said.
Fast out of the gate
Forward Akila Smith fueled the charge for the Lancers, 32 points and 13 rebounds was a load the Mountaineers couldn’t handle.
Add 18 points from Kyla McMakin and 11 points from Tra’Dayja Smith and the Longwood quest to claim a historic NCAA win was complete.
While Mount St Mary’s struggled in the first quarter, not scoring their first points until the 4:11 mark, and trailing 22-5 heading into the second, their resilience and momention continued to surge.
Working to mount a comeback
Kendall Bresee led four double-digit scorers for the Mountaineers with 20 points.
Michaela Harrison (13 points), Jessica Tomasetti (13 points), and Kayla Agentowicz (11 points) supported a second-half effort that outscored the Lancers by a 52-38 margin.
However, it wasn’t enough to overcome the early offensive shortfall.
Even while Tomasetti put up seven of the Mountaineers’ final 11 points in the final 36 seconds of play, Tra’Dayja Smith’s 5-of-6 from the free throw line ensured that Longwood would be first to claim an NCAA postseason win.
“The first thing that comes to mind is so proud of this group and how they fought back at the second half,” Mountaineers head coach Antoine White said.
“You know that first quarter, I think we’re a little caught off guard about how athletic and fast and quick Longwood is. And we haven’t seen that athleticism, for about three months, since nonconference. So that that caught us off guard. And credit to our players they continue to battle. Coaches, we kept trying to make adjustments and figure this thing out. And I think we did that in the second half, and we proved that we went out, played some really really good basketball.”
Tillett had nothing but respect to show for her counterpart, not taking anything of her team’s win for granted. –
“At the end it was really important that we celebrate, even though they’re (Mount St. Mary’s) so about excellence, they didn’t want the end to go the way that it did. To get as close as it did because they’re about excellence. We reminded each other to celebrate. This is the biggest moment in Longwood women’s basketball history so far. We hope there’s more big moments after this.”
Next for the Lancers is No. 1 seed and host NC State.
With the energy that the Lancers exhibited against Mount St. Mary’s, they look ready to face the challenge of a First-round game against the Wolfpack on Saturday.
Winning the 15th out of their last 16 games, this team doesn’t want to stop creating memories.
“It was a big moment for us,” Tra’Dayja Smith said.
“Like I said in the Big South Media, we all came here to write history and write our own story for Longwood. As you see tonight, we did it and we’re not done yet.”
“I mean we wanted to beat this team to play NC State, so yeah, we’re thinking about it, but we have more film to watch and more preparation,” Akila Smith added.
The Lancers understand they have their work cut out for them, but are ready to put up as much of a fight as they can.
“Obviously they have earned everything about their seeding,” Tillett concluded.
“And for us, it will be go out and compete as hard as we can. We played a really tough non-conference schedule. First game was against Maryland. This year we referenced that. This year we tied them in the first quarter. It’s just how long can you play at your best to compete with a team that on paper out matches you? And that will be our mindset going in.”
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