HIGH POINT — With its big lead gone, High Point University could’ve spiraled out of control. Instead, it recovered and found a way to win.
Skyler Curran made two free throws with five seconds left to give the Panthers the lead, Hampton missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer and High Point won 67-66 in Big South Conference women’s basketball Saturday afternoon in the Millis Center.
“The kids made plays, and good job to them for doing that,” Panthers coach Chelsea Banbury said. “I think it’s good for us to see and know that we can do that. Lately we haven’t been playing in a ton of close games. So to play in a tight game and have the kids see and have confidence that they can make plays will be big for us down the road.”
High Point led by 17 in the second half and by 15 to start the fourth quarter. But the Pirates, coming alive after a miserable-shooting first half in which they shot 17% from the field, scored 11 straight points to tie the game 57-57 with 2:33 remaining.
The Panthers, who struggled to find their shot early as well but caught a spark from a standout performance by Courtney Meadows, answered with scores on four of their final five possessions — including seven points by Curran and a three-point play by Jenson Edwards — to stave off Hampton.
“We just had to make plays,” said Curran, a junior guard who starred at West Forsyth. “We know we can score. We knew some things were working — the double flat and flare screens. We knew those were open. We knew Jenson’s going to get to the rim when she wants to.
“We had all the confidence in ourselves. We weren’t worried about them necessarily. They were going to go on their run, and that’s going to happen. But we still have to do what we have to do. … I always have confidence in us as a team that we’re going to get it done.”
High Point led by two on free throws by Curran with 2:16 left, by three on a 3-pointer by Curran with 1:36 left, and by two on a driving layup plus a free throw by Edwards with 23.2 seconds left. But the Pirates kept pace — leading by one with 32.4 seconds left and again with 12.9 seconds left.
The Panthers, after a timeout moved the ball to halfcourt, worked the ball to Curran, who was fouled on a shot near the right block with 5.0 seconds left. She quickly drained the two free throws. Following another timeout, Hampton got the ball to the left wing for a 3-pointer at the buzzer that missed off the rim.
“It was just two free throws,” Curran said. “We shoot them every day in practice, and I’ve been proud of myself with how I’ve shot them this year. I’ve been very consistent with them. I was confident in myself. It was just two free throws and I just had to step up and knock them down.”
Curran, despite early foul trouble, scored 20 points to lead High Point (18-5 overall, 16-2 conference), which has won 16 of its last 17 games — including six in a row — and is very close to clinching the regular-season championship with only games remaining against second-place Longwood next week.
Meadows, who scored 13 points in the first half, followed with a career-high 18 points, while Edwards added 14 points as the Panthers shot 50% in the second quarter to help lead 28-18 at halftime. They shot 42% for the game while the Pirates, who were led by Nylah Young with 19 points, shot 34%.
It wasn’t always the prettiest, but it got the job done. High Point will keep rolling into its final series of the regular season Thursday and Friday against Longwood in the Millis Center before starting the all-important conference tournament, which will be March 6-14 at the higher seeds.
“I’d rather learn from ugly wins, as Coach K says, than pretty losses,” Banbury said. “So, we were fortunate to come out on top. But I think it’s very clear to the staff and the team that we do have to do things better if we want to reach our ultimate goal. Fortunately, we were able to come out with a win and hopefully we can learn from it so we don’t find ourselves in that situation again.”
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HIGH POINT 67, HAMPTON 66
HU 10 8 17 31 – 66
HPU 16 12 22 17 – 67
Nylah Young 19, Victoria Davis 13, Victoria Mason 10, Mills 8, VanArsdale 8, Mapp 3, Sweeney 3, Accimeus 2
Skyler Curran 20, Courtney Meadows 18, Jenson Edwards 14, Scheier 7, Wyatt 5, Johnson 3