GREENEVILLE, TENN. – The Converse (0-1) basketball team dropped its season-opener to Tusculum (1-0) on Friday evening inside Pioneer Arena. The Valkyries found rhythm in the second half, but it was too little, too late as the Pioneers collected the 89-71 win.
The Valkyries shot 25-of-53 (47.2%) from the floor, while holding Tusculum to a 33%-clip (26-78). Free throws were not a strong point for either side as CC shot 50% (17-34) and TC combined for 67% (31-46). The Pioneers outrebounded Converse by a margin of 57-38, including 31 of the offensive variety. Bench points were tied at 34-all and points in the paint were dead even at 38. Converse held a 17-12 advantage on fast break points.
A layup and pair of free throws gave the Pioneers an early 4-0 lead before Paige Johnson drilled a long-range shot to trim the lead to a single point (4-3) with 8:40 remaining in the opening period of play. However, Tusculum reeled off nine straight to push ahead by double-digits (13-3), forcing a quick timeout by the Valkyries.
Shakori Jennings-Shuler put an end to that run with a power-drive layup and strong finish with the right hand before collecting an old-fashioned three-point play, benefiting off a beautiful feed from Tiffani Riggen, cutting the lead to 14-8. The Pioneers finished the opening 10 on a 10-6 spurt to lead 24-14 with one quarter in the books.
Back-to-back buckets from Abigail Lewis and Serenity Hunt followed by a steal and fast break layup by Dominique Hill gave Converse the first six points of the second quarter, trimming the gap to 24-20 with just over eight minutes to play before the half. Tusculum used a 13-2 run over the next five minutes to balloon its lead to 37-22.
However, Converse showed its resiliency and cut into the lead with a basket from Jennings-Shuler and a three from Tatum Boggs. Unfortunately, the second quarter ended just like the first as Tusculum used a 7-0 run to push ahead 44-27 at the intermission.
The Pioneers expanded their lead to 20 (51-31) to start the third quarter, but the Valkyries turned up the defense in tune to a 9-0 spurt, causing four TC turnovers, which resulted in easy baskets on the offensive end of the court, including a Brianna James three-ball, her first points of the contest.
That newfound energy carried the rest of the way through the third period as Converse outscored the Pioneers by five (23-18) to trail 62-50 heading into the final stanza.
The fourth period was a back-and-forth affair over the early stretch as the two teams traded the initial 16 points. Unfortunately, trading baskets would not work in the favor of the Vals as they ended up dropping the contest by the final of 89-71.
Lewis led the Valkyries with a game-high 16 points on a very efficient 7-of-13 from the field. James and Jennings-Shuler chipped in 11 points each.
The Valkyries will make the quick turnaround as they prepare to face the Lions of Mars Hill University tomorrow evening at 6 p.m. in the concluding day of the 2017 SAC/Conference Carolinas Challenge.