Gold Nuggets rally late to advance to GCAC semifinals

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NEW ORLEANS — Kelsee Singleton and Mikayla Bates led a closing run Friday that lifted Xavier University of Louisiana to a 73-65 women’s basketball victory against Philander Smith in the opening round of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Tournament at SUNO’s The Castle.

The Gold Nuggets (18-12), seeded third and the defending champion, will play second-seeded Dillard (19-8) in the semifinals at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Convocation Center. All women’s and men’s semifinals and championship games will be played this weekend at XULA.

XULA trailed 61-55 — its largest deficit of the game — after Terralynn Dominick’s basket for the Lady Panthers (11-16) with 7:53 remaining. The Gold Nuggets outscored Philander Smith 18-4 the remainder of the game, getting 6-of-6 free throws from Singleton and five points from Bates. Maya Trench and Bates made 3-pointers during the surge, and Singleton’s two free throws at 3:22 put XULA ahead to stay at 62-61.

Bates finished with 14 points, including a career-best four 3-pointers, and six rebounds. Jayla Nichols scored 10 points, and Singleton and Jalyn Hodge had nine apiece. Trench, who Thursday became the first freshman to make an All-GCAC defensive team, had eight points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals.

Anqunetta Chatt scored a career-best 21 points for Philander Smith, and Dominick and Honchea Thornton scored 16 apiece.

XULA led 27-13 early in the second quarter before the Lady Panthers reduced the deficit to 34-32 by halftime. Philander Smith led 57-55 through three quarters.

Philander Smith outshot XULA 39.3 to 31.6 percent from the floor — 48.1 to 24 percent in the second half — but the Gold Nuggets dominated at the line, making 28-of-39, both season highs, to the Lady Panthers’ 11-of-17. XULA made 24-of-29 second-half free throws. Four Philander Smith players fouled out. XULA also reached season highs with nine made 3s — three by Hodge and two by Trench — and eight blocked shots, including Singleton’s career-high-tying five.

In the other women’s games, sixth-seeded Tougaloo upset third-seeded Edward Waters 52-45, and Dillard defeated seventh-seeded SUNO 70-60. Tougaloo (9-14) will play top-seeded Talladega (20-8), which had a bye, at noon Saturday.

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Ed Cassiere

Ed Cassiere

Sports Information Director, Xavier University of Louisiana

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