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Wheeling erases second-half deficit to down Concord in MEC quarterfinals

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WHEELING, W.Va. (WVVA) - The Lady Mountain Lions built a 17-point advantage with just seven minutes to play in Thursday's MEC Tournament quarterfinal. But, a combination of nerves and pressure defense saw Wheeling knot the score at 65 with just seconds to play.

In the extra period, the Cardinals converted at the free throw line to secure a 77-72 victory.

Basketball is a game of runs, Concord head coach Kenny Osborne said after the game -- and this matchup saw its fair share.

The Cardinals opened the game on an 11-2 run and led by as many as 10 points in the first half. However, CU returned the favor in the second quarter, sending the game into halftime tied at 35.

At the start of the third quarter, the Mountian Lions forced some turnovers and transition opportunities with a zone defense, beginning the half on a 9-0 streak.

Keely Lundy's deep three-pointer stretched the Concord lead to 17 in the fourth quarter, but it would not last.

Wheeling's Lilly Ritz willed her team back into the game, finishing with 28 points, 25 rebounds and five assists -- including the game-tying three-pointer with eight seconds remaining.

"Both teams had runs -- and they made their run when it counted," Osborne said after the game. "They executed and hit some big shots -- we were struggling. We just didn't execute."

The charity stripe was a troublesome spot for CU on this night, particularly in overtime.

"I think the difference in the game was we were 9-of-21 at the line," Osborne continued. "We put the ball in some good free throw shooters' hands and we just didn't execute."

The Mountain Lions were just 1-of-5 from the foul line in OT, while the Cardinals sunk 8-of-10 attempts.

Riley Fitzwater turned in another double-double for CU with 14 points and 15 rebounds. Maggie Guynn also chipped in 14 points and six rebounds, while Keely Lundy sunk four three-pointers for her 12 points.

All three of those top scorers on Thursday night, as well as a pair of talented freshmen and other bench contributors, will all return to Athens next season.

"Next year is going to be our year for sure," Guynn said after the game. "We learned so much about ourselves as players. I just think that next year is going to be it for us."

Concord finishes the year with a record of 9-7. Wheeling advances to the semifinals and will battle Charleston on Saturday at 11 a.m.

Nick Dugan

Sports Director

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