#3 Charleston def. #7 Concord, 78-54
WHEELING, W.Va. – For four weeks, Charleston coach Tianni Kelly watched as time and again Concord bludgeoned opponents right at the outset of games. So the plan going into Saturday’s Mountain East Conference Tournament semifinal at WesBanco Arena, was for the Golden Eagles to throw the first punch.
Turns out it was a decisive one. The TKO variety.
Dakota Reeves fired in 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead a trio of double-figure scorers and No. 3 Charleston (24-8) held No. 7 Concord (14-17) to 37.5-percent shooting in a wire-to-wire victory. It improved Kelly’s record to 8-0 all-time at the venue, and afforded her Eagles a shot at a third straight tournament championship.
“I can’t say how thankful I am to get this win,” Kelly said. “God has been really good to us, especially with all the things we have gone through this season.
“We talked before the game about having to come out and match their intensity and exceed it. I thought we did a great job of that.”
Mountain Lions coach Tesla Southcott could only smile when she learned of what Kelly had told her team pregame.
“That’s a great strategy, but that’s because Tianni is a great coach,” Southcott said. “The last four weeks we’ve dictated the game to other teams, but (Saturday) they were the dictators.”
Markyia McCormick, who finished with 18 to back Reeves, hit an elbow jumper off the opening tap and Charleston never looked back. It was a double-digit game (19-11) after one and by the end of the third quarter, the advantage had ballooned to 24.
“I was determined to get this win,” Reeves said. “Getting a chance to go to the championship game for a third year in a row in my senior year is important.”
Trinity Palacio, who took home Tournament MVP a season ago, was again solid for the Eagles, with 15 points, five assists, and four rebounds.
“Whether it was a missed shot or a turnover, I thought that at times our kids let the little things affect us, and that changed the score,” said Southcott, who finished up her first year as coach. “But there’s a lot of pride, and maybe love is the word at Concord.
“At the beginning of the year, everyone had new roles, including me who went from the good guy assistant coach to the bad guy head coach.
“The growth with our team happened daily, minute-by-minute.”
Nakaila Gray paced the Mountain Lions with 14 points and five rebounds, while Abbie Smith backed her with 13 points and seven boards.
“I knew I had big shoes to fill,” Concord senior Maggie Guynn said of her final season. “Using my fifth year, I had seen the grind from others – the little things – that it takes to be successful.
“I had to do that role this year, and I am so thankful to wear this jersey.”
Charleston’s victory allows it to play for a possible third straight conference championship, all against Glenville State. The Golden Eagles have won the last two, with the Pioneers rebounding last season to go on and claim a national championship.
“We love playing Glenville,” Kelly said with a laugh. “They’re a great team with phenomenal coaching.
“It’s a blessing to get to play them on Championship Sunday.”
Not only will this be the third straight season that UC and Glenville have met for the conference crown, but it will be the fifth time since the inception of the MEC nine years ago.
“They’ve been so good for a number of years, while we’re still emerging,” Kelly said. “So maybe that is why people always think of them when talking about the MEC.
“Defense has always been our focus, and I’m super proud of the way we have defended.”