The Centre women's basketball team earned its first NCAA Tournament win since 2001, coming from behind to defeat Guilford College 59-47 Friday at Alumni Gymnasium.
Senior point guard Maggie Prewitt (Mount Sterling, Ky.) led the way for the Colonels with game-highs of 21 points, 12 rebounds and six assists while going 10-of-11 from the free throw line. With the victory, Centre improves to 25-3 and will take on Washington University, a 79-64 winner over Ferrum College in Friday's first game.
"These guys all year have been on a mission," said Centre head coach Wendie Austin-Robinson. "In the second half they just trusted themselves and played, got in our rhythm and did what we wanted to do. They've had big goals all year, and we told them after they won the conference they'd have to make new goals and set new dreams. This team loves playing together, and we lived to play one more."
Centre trailed through all of the first half and fell behind by as many as seven points before going to halftime down 30-25. Trailing 35-31 a few minutes into the half, the Colonels took over the game with a 26-4 run over a 12 minute stretch.
Centre had struggled from the field in the first half after missing its first seven shots of the game, but according to senior forward Lauren Huter (Louisville, Ky.) the momentum from a Bridget Winstead (Franklin, Tenn.) 3-pointer on the first possession was all the team needed to turn things around.
"I think Bridget's three to start the half was huge," said Huter. "From there we just kind of got on a roll and hit some of the big shots we didn't hit in the first half."
Prewitt scored nine points and Huter six during the surge while Centre held Guilford to just 2-of-17 shooting. By the time the run had subsided, the Colonels had turned a four point deficit into a 57-39 lead with four minutes to play.
"They're competitors," Austin-Robinson said of her team, which continues to build on a school record for wins in a season. "I asked them at halftime to tell me what was going on, and they made the adjustments we talked about. We talked about how many times before we had been in that situation where we were down at halftime, and it was time to just settle down, just play basketball, get over our nerves and make our run."
The Colonels have had to come from behind in many of their victories this year, something Prewitt believes helps the team to remain confident when faced with a deficit.
"We get down, and nobody freaks out, nobody panics," Prewitt added. "We know we've done this before, and it's no big deal for us to score seven points in two minutes. We had faith in each other and kept playing hard. When you worry about playing basketball instead of worrying about being down, it comes a lot easier."
Huter followed Prewitt in the scoring column for Centre with 13 points while Paige Baechle (Gallatin, Tenn.) added eight off the bench. Gabby Oglesby led Guilford with 13 points and nine boards.
Both teams struggled from the field with Centre shooting 34.5 percent (19-of-55) overall and 25 percent (3-of-12) from 3-point range while holding Guilford to 30.3 percent (20-of-66) overall and 19 percent (4-of-21) from outside. Both teams finished with 44 rebounds after Guilford held a 25-17 advantage in the first half and Centre held a 27-19 edge in the second.
Centre and Washington are scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. Saturday in Alumni Gymnasium.