GREENVILLE, N.C. – You had to see it to believe it, and even if you saw it you might not believe it as the East Carolina women’s basketball team came back to defeat the UCF Knights, 63-57, in Minges Coliseum on Saturday afternoon.
East Carolina (19-8, 10-4 AAC) trailed by nine points with under four to play and seven points with two minutes left after a lethargic 38 minutes of action. Then, it happened: the Pirates closed the game on a 15-0 run to stun the Knights.
Danae McNeal made a layup with 3:47 to play, Amiya Joyner made a layup with 2:00 left, and then the team woke up.
ECU scored nine points and UCF (11-13, 2-10 AAC) turned it over four times in the final minute of play.
The context is important though. The game was close most of the way – there were 13 lead changes and 13 ties – but with 6:16 to play in a two-point game, Joyner was assessed her third personal foul… then a technical foul. UCF made three of the free throws then a bucket and all of a sudden it was a seven-point game.
It seemed as though the Pirates, for the first time in five games, were not going to find a way. A fool’s thinking, doubting this ECU bunch. It is hard to measure their heart, but any measurement would fall short of its true value. They simply refused to lose the game.
Out of a timeout with 52 seconds in a three-point ballgame at 57-54, Kim McNeill called her play, and Joyner got her look. The freshman dropped a dime on a backdoor cut to Synia Johnson who made a terrific finish to cut it to one.
Johnson, who finished with five steals on the day, stole the ball out of the press on the inbound and McNeal was fouled on her layup. The senior out of Swansea, S.C. sank both free throws and the Pirates locked in on defense with 40.0 seconds to play.
After forcing a UCF timeout, Micah Dennis stole the ball again and sank a pair of her own free throws. Another stop and some more McNeal free throws later, ECU had completed the miracle comeback.
Joyner had another terrific day with 15 points and 12 rebounds for her 12th double-double of the season while McNeal, Dennis and Johnson all scored in double figures as well. The Pirates forced 24 turnovers and scored 25 points off of them.
The Pirates also celebrated Senior Day on Saturday, honoring Micah Dennis, Xianna Josephs, Danae McNeal, Brittany Franklin and Tiara Chambers before the game. The five seniors also started the game for ECU.
The Pirates are back in Minges on Wednesday at 6 p.m. as they host the Houston Cougars. Attendance will be free for all fans wishing to attend.