Wilmington, NC - Cape Fear women's basketball defeated Catawba Valley Community College, 86-72. TaKwana Bland led the team with 28 points and seven rebounds, while Destiny Campbell finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds.
Despite the final score, the Red Hawks made it difficult for Cape Fear, particularly in the second and third quarters. It was all Cape Fear in the first, however, as Christina Caesar opened the game by knocking a 3-pointer on the game's first shot. It sparked a hot start for the Sea Devils, who made six of their first seven shots, and opened the first quarter with an 14-2 lead. The Red Hawks, on the other hand, struggled offensively thanks to pressure from the home team. They shot just 5-19 in the first, as the Sea Devils defended well in the halfcourt, and prevented second chance opportunities.
Catawba settled in the final minutes of the quarter, but Cape Fear remained in the lead, and headed into second quarter leading 27-13. Bland and Campbell were the early offensive leaders, scoring seven, and five points, respectively, in the quarter.
Their double digit lead was soon erased, however, as Catawba used a 9-2 run to cut Cape Fear's lead to seven midway through the second. Shots stopped falling, and poor transition defense gave the Red Hawks easy fast break points.
But the quarter ended well for the Sea Devils, as Caesar scored a layup with seconds remaining to give them a 44-35 halftime lead.
Bland was the top scorer in the first half with 15 points on 5-9 shooting. She knocked down a 3-pointer late in the second which briefly gave her team a 10 point lead, but also helped set up a two-for-one opportunity that resulted in Caesar's layup on their next possession.
After a poor start for both teams in the opening two minutes, Catawba went on a 9-2 run to cut Cape Fear's lead to just two. During the stretch, head coach Lori Drake emphasized the need for her team to play as a team, not individuals, something she says her team has battled with throughout the season.
"It's the same thing I've been saying all year…We can't come out and be the best of the best for part of the game. We we start to become individuals, the game falls apart."
The Red Hawks were unable to tie the game, despite getting a few chances to do so. Searching for offense, the Sea Devils were finally able to gain momentum thanks to Campbell, who scored seven straight points for her team, including a 3-pointer. Bland followed with a 3 of her own, and suddenly Cape Fear led by nine again.
Campbell's efforts inspired the rest of the team, as a 3-pointer from Nikia Wallace was immediately followed by a steal on the inbounds from Bland, who was then fouled making a layup. Suddenly, the Sea Devils lead by 17 heading into the final 10 minutes.
The game opened up at the start of the fourth, and while both teams found easy buckets, the pace of play benefited the Sea Devils, who extended their lead past 20. Catawba briefly threatened, but Cape Fear held them off, and walked away with their seventh straight victory.
Campbell and Bland were undoubtedly the difference tonight, combining for 52 of the team's 86 points. Coach Drake had one word to describe their play.
"Huge. Destiny gets this look on her face that says, 'no one is going to stop me' and when that happens she has to touch the ball every time down the floor. I think there were about 4 or 5 possessions where she scored, and I said she's going to touch the ball. "Its cool, because in that moment, we weren't individuals. They knew she had the hot hand, and then just to be able to switch it and let TaKwana get to the rim, those two were absolutely huge for us today."
The Sea Devils also were solid from the 3-point line, knocking down 7-12 from beyond the arc. While a bit uncharacteristic of their play, which typically relies on attacking the hoop, it gave them the needed spark when Catawba was attempting to come back.
Overall, Drake was happy with the outcome, but acknowledged they have to remain focused in the final stretch.
"We pulled this one out, we're staying at number one, and we're excited about it, but we still have a few big [games] to go."
The win improves Cape Fear to 22-4 on the season 16-2 in conference play.
Their next game is scheduled for Thursday, March 2nd, where they will take on Bryant & Stratton College at home at 6:00 p.m.