NEWBERRY, S.C. --- Newberry outscored Tusculum by 15 points in the fourth quarter to come away with a 68-52 victory in South Atlantic Conference women's basketball action Saturday afternoon at Eleazer Arena.
Shelby Britten scored a game-high 24 points for the Wolves (16-11, 11-9 SAC), who shot 54.2 percent (26-for-48) from the field and used a 26-11 fourth-quarter advantage to turn a one-point game into a 16-point victory. Meg Essex added 18 points and a game-high 15 rebounds as Newberry finished with a 37-25 advantage on the glass and held Tusculum to a season-low 29.4 percent (15-for-51) from the field and a season low in points. The victory was the 10th straight at home for the Wolves over the Pioneers in the series.
Lovely Locklear led the Pioneers (16-10, 11-9 SAC) with 12 points in 18 minutes off the bench, while Sydney Wilson reached double figures for the 11th consecutive game by scoring 11 points for the Pioneers, who trailed 26-19 at halftime after shooting 21.4 percent (6-for-28) from the field but rallied to tie the game five times in the third quarter. However, Newberry opened the fourth quarter with nine straight points and led by double figures for the final six minutes.
The Pioneers took an early 5-2 lead on a three-pointer from Kasey Johnson and a steal and layup by Mia Long, but six straight points by the Wolves gave Newberry an 8-5 lead with 1:59 left in the first quarter. Locklear scored four in a row for the Pioneers on two free throws and a layup to give Tusculum a 9-8 edge with 1:13 remaining in the period, only to see Newberry regain the lead in the final minute on a basket from Kelsey McDermott and two foul shots by Samara Hill. Newberry led 12-9 at the end of one quarter despite shooting 36.4 percent (4-for-11) from the field compared to 25 percent (3-for-12) by Tusculum.
Newberry's lead swelled to 19-11 as Britten converted a layup with 7:06 left in the half, but Tusculum came back with eight straight points of its own, including a three-point play and a three-pointer from Maddie Sutton and two more free throws by Locklear, to knot the game at 19-19 with 3:47 remaining in the half. The Pioneers would go 0-for-5 from the field with two turnovers the rest of the half as Newberry scored seven in a row to take a 26-19 lead into intermission.
Locklear led all players with eight points in the first half for the Pioneers, with six points and five rebounds off the bench from Sutton. The Wolves were paced by Britten with seven points, with four each from Hannah Lepaio, Hill and McDermott. Essex had three points in the first half but grabbed a game-high seven rebounds.
After Newberry extended its lead to 28-19 on a layup by Essex on the opening possession of the third quarter, Tusculum came back with nine straight to tie the score at 28-28. Wilson hit a three-pointer to start the run, which included two free throws apiece from Long and Johnson and a tying layup by Long with 6:47 left in the third quarter. Tusculum would tie the score four more times in the period, the last at 36-36 on a Johnson basket, before Essex helped Newberry to a 42-38 lead in the final minute of the quarter. Wilson hit a three-pointer on the Pioneers' last possession to send Tusculum to the final period trailing 42-41.
The start of the fourth quarter belonged to Newberry, as Tusculum turned the ball over five times in its first six possessions as the Wolves rattled off nine straight points to gain a 51-41 lead on a Hill three-pointer with 7:11 left. Wilson would pull the Pioneers within 51-43 on a jumper with 6:41 left, but Essex scored on Newberry's next trip and the lead would not drop to single digits again.
Locklear reached double figures for the fourth time in the last six games for the Pioneers, who also had Johnson finish with 11 points and five rebounds. Long tallied six points and three steals for the Pioneers, while Yolizma Cupidan had a game-high four steals. Tusculum forced Newberry into 20 turnovers, which it turned into 22 points, but Newberry had a dominating 40-10 edge in points in the paint.
With the loss, Tusculum dropped into a tie for sixth place in the SAC standings with Newberry at the end of the regular season. The teams split their regular-season meetings, with the seeding deadlock broken by virtue of Tusculum's win over third-place Anderson on Jan. 17. As a result, the Pioneers will open the SAC Championship tournament on Wednesday with a quarterfinal game at Anderson, starting at 7 p.m.