MORGANTON – The murderer’s row that is the McDowell Lady Titans’ non-conference schedule continued right on into the Freedom Christmas Invitational.
McDowell (5-5) fell 61-47 to the unbeaten Asheville Christian Academy Lions in the opening round of the annual holiday event Wednesday.
Four of McDowell’s losses have come to three teams (ACA, East Burke, Mitchell) who are a combined 32-1, with that one loss being the Lady Titans’ win over Mitchell.
The Lions (12-0), with a roster full of long, lanky shooters, hurt the Lady Titans on the boards and with some timely perimeter marksmanship, answering seemingly every rally McDowell started.
Braelyn Whiteside poured in 19 points for ACA, while MaLeeah Langstaff added 16 and pulled down seven boards. Jay Cruell tossed in 11 for the Lions, who out-rebounded McDowell 14-6 offensively. Cruell and Whiteside combined to shoot 6-of-13 from 3-point range.
“I felt like our girls played hard and gave a ton of effort,” said McDowell head coach Jennifer Kinninger. “This team (ACA) is very disciplined and well-coached, and they all can shoot; 1 through 5 can step out and shoot.
“We gave up way too many offensive rebounds and we gave up too many turnovers, the majority of them unforced. When you take those two stats away, it’s a different ballgame.”
It would have been different if the first quarter had never happened as well. Asheville Christian jumped out to a 17-4 lead after one period, but only outscored the Lady Titans 44-43 over the remaining three quarters.
That initial burst turned out to be enough for the Lions.
McDowell whittled the lead back down into single digits at halftime and trailed 27-18 at the break. The Lady Titans were behind 44-29 after three quarters, but made their strongest second-half push early in the third.
Post players Lily McKinney and Makayla Brewer scored back-to-back buckets, both of them off assists from Dezi Williams, to get the Lady Titans within 45-36 with 6:35 to play.
But Whiteside scored off an offensive rebound 17 seconds later, and the lead stayed in double figures the rest of the way.
Hayley Creasman led McDowell with 11 points, hitting 3-of-5 from 3-point range. Brewer (7 rebounds) added 10 points and McKinney (7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals) chipped in eight.
The Lady Titans shot it well, hitting for 46 percent (19-of-41) from the field and going 6-of-14 from downtown. But Asheville Christian, who shot 44 percent, took advantage of 23 McDowell turnovers, along with the extra possessions they got via offensive boards. The Lions also outscored the Lady Titans 10-3 from the line, taking 20 free throws compared to six for McDowell.
The Lady Titans bounced back Thursday in the consolation bracket, defeating Wilkes Central 59-45 to improve to 6-5. McDowell plays its final tourney game at 11:30 Friday against an opponent undetermined at press time.
McDowell (47) Hayley Creasman 4-7 0-0 11, Lily McKinney 3-6 2-4 8, Makayla Brewer 5-7 0-0 10, Dezi Williams 2-8 1-2 5, Candace Cooper 1-4 0-0 3, Taylor Buchanan 1-4 0-0 2, Zoe Miller 2-4 0-0 6, Katelyn Smith 1-1 0-0 2, Silese Carson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 19-41 3-6 47.
Asheville Christian Academy (61) Brantley Compton 1-3 1-2 3, Emma Newton 1-6 2-2 4, MaLeeah Langstaff 6-15 3-3 16, Braelyn Whiteside 7-18 2-5 19, Jay Cruell 4-5 0-2 11, Caroline Sikkink 3-3 2-2 8, Hannah Babcock 0-0 0-4 0. Totals: 22-50 10-20 61.
McDowell 04 14 11 18 – 47
ACA 17 10 17 17 – 61
Rebounds: McDowell (23) ACA (28) Rebound leaders: McDowell (Brewer, McKinney 7) ACA (Langstaff 7) 3-point goals: McDowell (6-14) ACA (7-20) McDowell (Williams 0-3, Cooper 1-2, Creasman 3-5, Brewer 0-1, Miller 2-3) ACA (Compton, Newton 0-1, Langstaff 1-5, Whiteside 3-10, Cruell 3-3) McDowell assist leaders: (Williams, McKinney 3) McDowell steals leaders: (Williams, McKinney 3) Turnovers: McDowell (23) ACA (20)