LENOIR – For the first half, plus a couple minutes of the third quarter, the McDowell Lady Titans found themselves battling against a West Caldwell squad desperate to get on the board and gain its first Northwestern 3A/4A Conference win of the season.
Down the stretch, McDowell remained composed and was able to avoid the upset bid, winning on the road 54-45 Tuesday night in Gamewell.
The road win continued what has been a solid run for the Lady Titans, who have won three straight and five of their past seven contests as the end of the regular season winds down.
After Tuesday’s action, the postseason outlook has also solidified itself for McDowell (15-8 overall, 9-4 NW 3A/4A) as the Lady Titans are now locked into the three-seed in the upcoming Northwestern Conference tournament and will host South Caldwell next Tuesday in the opening round at Titan Gym.
Tuesday, though, the Lady Titans were in a tough battle.
West Caldwell (5-18, 0-13) jumped in front with three 3-pointers in the first four minutes of play. The Lady Warriors roared out to a 16-4 lead in the first quarter.
McDowell absorbed that initial blow and began to slowly trim the deficit down to seven points by the end of the first half. The fact that the Lady Titans played West even the last six minutes of the first half was key in setting up what came in the second half.
Guards Jaleah Battle (23 points) and Annie Bean (19 points) scored 22 of their combined 42 points during the first half, giving the Lady Warriors that early edge. Battle made three long range shots and had 11 of her points in that initial six-minute run.
Coming out of halftime, the Lady Titans made adjustments and they quickly proved beneficial.
Bean opened the second half with a free throw at the 7:07 mark to give West Caldwell a 26-18 lead.
That’s when McDowell answered with seven consecutive points and a 12-3 run over a span of close to five minutes.
Dezi Williams put the Lady Titans ahead for the first time at 30-29 with 3:02 left in the third, going coast-to-coast off a rebound.
That run put McDowell back in control of the game and the momentum was in the Lady Titans’ favor the rest of the way. Ahead 38-36 after three, McDowell pushed the lead in the fourth to as high as 11 while holding the Lady Warriors to just one field goal.
Hayley Creasman made it 41-38 with a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 5:38 left. Candace Cooper followed with a 3-pointer from the wing at the 4:55 mark off a Lily McKinney assist.
Makayla Brewer added a basket and Williams then made two free throws and a layup with 3:02 left, giving McDowell its largest advantage of the night at 50-39 and essentially putting the game away.
Creasman (6 rebounds, 1 steal) and Williams (5 rebounds, 1 steal) finished with 15 points each. Brewer (11 rebounds) added 11 points.
Zoe Miller netted five points. Silese Carson scored three points and McKinney (12 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals) finished with two points.
McDowell will conclude the regular season on Friday at Freedom (4 p.m. jayvee girls).