RALEIGH, N.C. -- The host and East Division third-seed William Peace Pacers slipped past the East sixth-seed Meredith College Angels to claim a 78-74 victory in Wednesday night's USA South Women's Basketball Tournament first round action. Kimberly Schuh led all with 33 points, and Trinity Packer grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds to go with a career-high 11 points.
WPU will advance to Saturday's quarterfinal pairing versus the West Division second-seed Berea College Mountaineers.
The Avenging Angels led most of the first half and seemed to have the game under control with a 29-23 halftime advantage. And Meredith extended that lead to as many as 11 on a Caroline Coleman three-pointer three minutes into the third period.
Peace missed their next two free throws but pulled down a pair of offensive rebounds leading to back-to-back layups from Shania Springer. A steal from WPU's Mariah Ballen kept the ball in front of the Pacers, who pulled to within five on a Ballen field goal at the midway point.
Brittany Preston knocked down a pair of free throws, but Maya Johnson hit WPU's first three of the night to trim their deficit to just four. Two more Pacer buckets evened the game at 41 with 3:13 left in the frame, but Schuh finally stepped in for a three-point-play to keep Meredith out front. Coleman found Schuh inside again, but Peace's Shaniya Taylor drained her first-of-two three pointers to maintain pressure.
Neither team let up to leave the score tied at 52 heading into the fourth stanza.
Another three-point-play from Schuh in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter gave Meredith a slight advantage early, but a pair of Pacer layups shifted the lead to WPU. Meredith called a timeout, and Kirstie King picked up a steal resulting in a Schuh free throw. Packer entered the game and finished a three-point-play, but Peace knocked in a bucket to stay close.
King and Schuh pushed the MCBB lead back to five with 5:11 left on the clock for a chance to take a breath. But the momentum was shortlived as Ballen scored a quick four for Peace. Schuh notched another bonus play, but WPU's Khadijah Daniels evened the game at 66 with less than four minutes remaining in regulation.
Both teams continued to battle for an advantage, but Meredith did not lose the lead until a Ballen jumper finally pushed the Pacers out front with just three seconds left on the clock. An unforced Angels turnover gave Peace back the ball with Meredith forced to foul. Daniels knocked in both free throws to spread the gap to four and no time for MCBB to recover.
Coleman finished with 12 points, five assists, and King grabbed nine rebounds with seven points, two assists. Madison Gladwell dished out six assists with three steals, two rebounds, and four points, and Preston finished with five points on perfect shooting on the night. Janah Hassell grabbed three boards with one assist, and Katherine Holmes netted one three in the loss.
Ballen led the Pacers with 29 points, and Daniels finished with 15, including six-for-six from the stripe.