Late run lifts NCAA’s Chattanooga Mocs past Cascades

UFV’s Sara Simovic looks for teammate Taylor Claggett on a pick and roll during Sunday’s exhibition tilt vs. the Chattanooga Mocs.

ABBOTSFORD, B.C. – The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women’s basketball team outscored the UFV Cascades 7-0 over the final two minutes of regulation to steal a 74-71 exhibition victory on Sunday evening at the Envision Athletic Centre.

The Cascades had surged ahead of their NCAA Div. 1 opponent in the fourth quarter, seizing a 71-67 lead in the dying minutes. But the Mocs reeled off seven straight points, capped by clutch shots from Keiana Gilbert and Nakeia Burks, and a potential game-tying three-pointer from UFV’s Sydney Williams fell short at the buzzer.

The Mocs improved to 3-0 on their preseason tour through B.C., having already banked victories over the Trinity Western Spartans (75-69 on Friday) and VK U17 (94-39 on Saturday).

The Cascades, meanwhile, are just three days into their training camp, with their Canada West regular-season opener (Oct. 27 at UBC) still more than two months away.

“I really wish we could have the last two minutes back, for sure,” UFV head coach Al Tuchscherer said. “I’m more frustrated with myself than I am with the players. We were disorganized in the last two minutes, and they needed me to be a lot better there.

“We’re just at the early stage of our development, and they need a little bit more guidance at this point. . . . But we’re three days into camp, we don’t have a lot to run, and it was good in a lot of ways.”

Indeed, the Cascades stuck with the reigning Southern Conference champs throughout Sunday’s tilt, trailing 22-19 at the end of the first quarter and 32-31 at the half. The Mocs opened up a 58-49 lead early in the fourth quarter, but the hosts responded with an 18-4 surge highlighted by back-to-back triples from Jessica Zawada to go up 67-62 with four minutes remaining.

The lead was 71-67 inside of two minutes, but the Mocs rallied. Gilbert drilled a long two-point jumper to give Chattanooga a 72-71 lead, and Burks followed with a tough left-handed runner with the shot clock winding down to expand the margin to three with 14.5 seconds left. Williams’s subsequent three-point attempt was highly contested, and the Mocs wrapped up the win.

Sophomore forward Zawada had a perfect shooting night (6-for-6 from the field, 4-for-4 from three-point range, 2-for-2 from the free throw line) and tied teammates Shayna Litman and Taylor Claggett for game-high scoring honours. Litman was on fire in the first quarter, posting 12 points in the frame, and she finished with 12 rebounds for the double-double. Claggett was 5-for-6 from the floor and 8-for-9 from the line to go with nine boards, and Sara Simovic (13 points) also scored in double figures.

Keiana Gilbert was the lone Moc to crack the double-figure plateau with 15 points, and Aryanna Gilbert and Jacobi Lynn added nine points apiece.

“I think we’ll be deceptively tough to play against this year,” said Tuchscherer, noting that key backcourt players Kate Head and Amanda Thompson were unavailable to suit up for the Cascades on Sunday. “We’ve got some experienced players at all the key spots on the floor, we’ve got a little bit of depth, and I think you saw a lot of that tonight.”

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