Natasha Adair has always had a plan.
When she was introduced last spring as the new head coach of the College of Charleston’s women’s basketball team. When fall practice started, and her team was picked to finish 10th in the 11-team Southern Conference. When her Cougars were struggling through a seven-game losing streak in January.
She always had one, simple plan: She wanted to be the best team in March.
Monday night at Davidson, the Cougars took a massive step toward that goal, and handed Adair the biggest victory of her first season as a head coach. The Cougars tagged the Wildcats with only their second SoCon loss of the season, winning 74-71 on Davidson’s home court.
With the win, the Cougars (11-12, 7-7 SoCon) took a big step toward securing at least the No. 5 seed in next month’s SoCon Tournament, and the first-round bye that goes along with it.
March is still a long way away – the Cougars have six more regular-season games, including a two-game homestand this weekend – but Adair knows her team took moved forward Monday night.
“Davidson was 11-1 in conference before tonight so it’s a big win for us,” Adair said after the game. “They were picked to win this league and are at the top in the standings. We talked before this game about being courageous. To come into Davidson and beat a team at the top of the league will give our kids that confidence that they can play with anyone. To hold on and get key stops down the stretch, when things didn’t go our way, shows a lot about our team.”
One of the keys for the Cougars has been the growth of Northeastern transfer Afreyea Tolbert, who moved into a starting role three games ago. Against Davidson (14-9, 11-2 SoCon), Tolbert scored a game-high 21 points in 23 minutes, and added 10 rebounds. The Southern Conference recognized her effort by naming her the league’s player of the week.
Center Latisha Harris had 18 points and 10 rebounds, but was again plagued by foul trouble. Backup center Mikaela Hopkins stepped up with her best game of the season, however, scoring 10 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 14 minutes off the bench.
Point guard Jill Brown had seven assists against only three turnovers, while Cathryn Hardy pulled down 11 boards and collected four steals.
“I’m so excited for my team and it was a great team win,” Adair said. “We talked about that Davidson was going to come back, but our depth is what won us this game. We had multiple people make plays for us. Davidson is a great team and we knew they were going to fight until the end.
“It was a team effort and I’m so proud of these girls for doing something that they haven’t done in beating Davidson. It was something a lot of people thought we couldn’t do and we stayed together and got the win.”
It doesn’t get any easier for the women now, though.
They host league-leading Chattanooga (21-3, 14-1) at noon on Saturday, followed by a pivotal game against Samford (12-12, 9-6) at home on Monday night. Samford is the team currently sitting in fifth place in the league standings, and is the first team the Cougars would have to pass to secure a first-round bye in the conference tournament.