Friday, February 20, 2015

Radford hosts Campbell in huge Big South showdown

As the 2014-15 season has played out, we've marveled at how far Radford has come.

The question now is, how far can the Highlanders go?

To the WNIT tournament? Maybe even to the NCAAs?

Remarkably, it's all still possible for the Highlanders, who have gone from a 7-23 also-ran a year ago to youthful-but-legitimate Big South tournament contenders right now.

Now, the conference regular season title boat has sailed off to Lynchburg - loaded Liberty has that, as well as the top seed in the league tournament, after Tuesday's 65-60 decision over Longwood.

But second place - and the potential for an automatic bid to the WNIT - is still on the table, and with three games left the Highlanders are in prime position to seize it. Radford (15-11, 12-5 Big South) and Campbell (17-9, 12-5) are currently tied for the No. 2 slot, and the two teams meet Saturday at noon in Radford's Dedmon Center.

It's not a stretch to call this Radford's biggest regular season game in years.

It's also just the start of the Highlanders' season-closing three-game gauntlet, which continues Tuesday against UNC Asheville and ends Feb. 28 at High Point. All three games are rematches; check out what happened in the first meetings:

- Lost 65-62 in overtime at Campbell;

- Won 67-65 vs. UNC Asheville (freshman Claudia Quevedo career-high 19 points; freshman Janayla White delivers game-winning layup with 18 seconds left at one end, game-saving block at the other);

- Won 61-58 vs. High Point (Ayana Avery game-winning 3-pointer with 30 seconds left, snapping a 58-58 tie).

That's right, each game decided by three points or less, one in overtime. In other words, nothing close to a gimme for Radford from here on out. Also, High Point (16-11, 12-6) and Winthrop (15-11, 11-6) remain in hot pursuit. So while second place is still possible, sixth place is, too.

So consider this a clarion call to all Highlander fans within range of the Dedmon Center to show up Saturday (and Tuesday) and help push this team across the finish line. To support Big South Coach of the Year in-waiting Mike McGuire. To pay tribute to seniors Ayana Avery, Jordynn Gaymon and Keira McIvor (and you, too, La-She' Walker).

But mostly, to simply check out a pretty good basketball team. Because after a few lean years, it looks like Radford now really has one.

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