The Centre women's basketball team claimed a spot in a three-way tie for the first regular season Southern Athletic Association championship with a 69-65 win over Rhodes on Sunday in Memphis, Tenn.
Paige Baechle (Gallatin, Tenn.) led the way with career highs of 31 points and 19 rebounds to help the Colonels finish the regular season at 14-10 with a 12-2 mark in SAA competition. Rhodes also finishes at 12-2 in the conference, along with Millsaps, which will host the SAA Tournament by virtue of the three-team tiebreaker.
Centre fell behind early in the game, trailing by as many as nine points when a 7-0 Rhodes run made the score 25-16 at the midway point of the first half. However, with Baechle scoring 12 points during the stretch, the Colonels outscored Rhodes 19-6 over a span of six minutes to take a 37-33 lead.
The Colonels would go to halftime with a 39-36 lead and would stay in front the rest of the way. Baechle scored eight straight points as Centre opened the second half on a 10-0 run to take its biggest lead at 49-36. Rhodes did its best to climb back into the game, eventually cutting the margin to 67-65 after making three 3-pointers in the final two minutes, but a pair of Chelsea Benham (Taswell, Ind.) free throws on the final possession were enough to preserve the victory.
Mary Winstead (Franklin, Tenn.) and Benham joined Baechle in double figures with 11 and 10 points respectively while Sarah Johnson led Rhodes with 19 points. The Colonels shot 43.8 percent (21-of-48) from the field while holding Rhodes to 30.3 percent (23-of-76) shooting and won the rebounding battle 47-38. Centre turned the ball over 22 times to just nine for Rhodes.
Both teams will next play in the first round of the SAA Tournament on Friday at Millsaps. Rhodes will take on Oglethorpe at 6 p.m. CST, followed by Centre facing Hendrix at 8 p.m.