By David Rogers. January 3, 2019. BOONE, NC — Somebody help Lainey Gosnell patent her halftime Kool-Aid. After the Appalachian State forward was handcuffed in the first half Thursday night at the Holmes Center, going 0-5 from the field, the 5-11 sophomore from Demorest, GA exploded for a game-high 18 points in the second half to lead the Mountaineers past previously undefeated South Alabama, 71-63.
COVER IMAGE: Lainey Gosnell (30) powers through block attempt by South Alabama player. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
The App State women faced a 10-point deficit midway through the second quarter, with nine first half turnovers almost proving to be their undoing in the Sun Belt Conference opener. But with a renewed effort on defense in the third quarter, better ball control, and a strong defensive rebounding performance by 6-4 sophomore center Bayley Plummer (a game-high 16 rebounds) and key buckets by Gosnell and sophomore guard LaPresha Stanley (16 points, including 9-of-10 from the free throw line), the Mountaineers began to chip away at the Jaguars’ lead.
With 5:48 left in the third period, Gosnell was fouled upon making a shot under the basket and followed up with a nothing but net from the charity stripe to pull the Mountaineers to within two points. Led by guards Savannah Jones (team-high 17 points) and Shaforia Kines (15), South Alabama always seemed to answer the App State surges with buckets of their own. Five times in the last six minutes of the third period, the Mountaineers pulled to within three points.
The Jags still led by five points, 53-48, at the end of the third stanza, but the momentum shift was palpable. Starting the final quarter on a 9-2 run, App State tied the game for the first time with 5:10 remaining, 57-57. Gosnell put an exclamation mark on the rally with a resounding 3-pointer after receiving a pass from guard Nicola Mathews, who was credited with the assist.
From there, the Mountaineers forced turnovers and the Jaguars lost their composure, scrambling to make shots that would sail wide or short of the mark. When Gosnell hit another 3-pointer with just 1:34 remaining to put the Mountaineers ahead by five, the Jaguars started fouling. The sharpshooting Stanley hit five bulls’ eyes from the charity stripe in the last 34 seconds, while redshirt junior guard Ashley Polacek added two successful free throws and a blocked shot in the final 17 seconds to help preserve Appalachian’s upset win.
Appalachian held one of South Alabama’s leading scorers and rebounders, center Antoinette Lewis to just six points, far below her season average of 14.3 points per game in the Jags’ first 11 games (all wins). Lewis came into the game ranked #4 in total rebounding average per game, #1 in offensive rebounds, #6 in defensive rebounds, #9 in scoring, #1 in field goal percentage, and #2 in blocked shots. Except for five blocked shots in the first half (6 for the entire game), the Mountaineers pretty much neutralized the Jaguars leading player.
- App State center Bayley Plummer came into the game as the #2 rebounder in the Sun Belt, averaging 10.3 boards,. She cleaned the class for 16 boards Thursday night, 13 of them defensive rebounds to deprive the Jaguars of second and third chance scoring opportunities. It was the fourth game of the season that Plummer pulled down at least 15 rebounds. With 9 points, she was one point shy of her third double-double of the season.
The Mountaineers were 16-of-19 from the foul line for the game (9-of-10 in the 4th quarter alone). Afterward, Plummer and Gosnell revealed to reporters that head coach Angel Elderkin required them to each make 500 free throws during certain Christmas vacation practices. “She explained to us that the teams which lost to South Alabama in those first 11 games were not making free throws, especially in the closing minutes. That wasn’t going to be us.”
- Appalachian appeared nervous and possibly intimidated in the early going, facing an undefeated team in the league opener, but was impressive in rallying for the win. Head coach Elderkin noted that some of her players had not been healthy inthe Mountaineer losses to South Carolina and Clemson, so her starting unit had not played much together.
- With six players on the South Alabama roster ranging from 5-11 to 6-1 vs. just three Mountaineers 5-11 or taller, the Jags height advantage showed in the first half. Appalachian’s fitness, speed and quickness seemed to wear down the visitors from Mobile in the second half. Elderkin noted that the coaching staff was able to “save” Plummer for a bit, resting her when South Alabama’s Lewis was brought off the floor.
Appalachian State returns to the Holmes Center hardwoods on Sunday with a 2:00 pm tipoff vs. Troy. At Coastal Carolina on Thursday night, Troy erased a 17-point deficit in just four minutes, going on a 19-0 run in the 4th quarter to squeeze out an 82-81 win over the Chanticleers. The Trojans are 10-2 on the season after the win over Coastal Carolina.
- Lainey Gosnell — APP, 18 points
- Pre Stanley — APP, 17 points
- Savannah Jones — USA, 17 points
- Shaforia Kines — USA, 15 points
- Madi Story — APP, 10 points
- Bayley Plummer, APP, 16 rebounds
- Antoinette Lewis, USA, 10 rebounds
- Shaforia Kines, USA, 10 rebounds
- Savannah Jones, USA, 8 rebounds
- Lainey Gosnell, APP, 7 rebounds
- Madi Story, APP, 7 rebounds
- Bayley Plummer — APP, 3 steals
- Pre Stanley — APP, 3 steals
- Antoinette Lewis — USA, 6 blocks