Women's Basketball: Panthers close out regular season with 79-70 USA South win at Piedmont

Women's Basketball: Panthers close out regular season with 79-70 USA South win at Piedmont

DEMOREST, Ga. - LaGrange closed out the regular season with a key 79-70 USA South win over Piedmont in the Cave Arena on Saturday.

The Panthers improved to 17-8 in avenging a 58-51 loss to the Lions (18-7, 13-3 USA South) on Jan. 20. The victory was a milestone one for Panther head coach Lee Buchanan and the program. The win in Cave Arena was the first ever for the Panthers over the Lions.

Buchanan, in his third season, got win No. 50 as the Panthers' women's head coach. He reached the mark faster than either one of his predeccesors. He has a 50-29 record thus far with the Panthers.

"I am super proud of the our team today. A really good win over a really good Piedmont team," said Buchanan. "This was the first time the Panthers have won at Piedmont so this was a special win. We had several players make contributions and that makes it even more special.

"We played hard on both ends and I was very happy with our toughness."

Sophomore Lauren Johnson led all scorers with 16 points. Kelsey Walthall scored all of her 13 points in the second half. Madison Barker added 12 points.

The difference in the game came at the free throw line and rebounding. The Panthers were 31-of-41 at the line, while the Lions were just 20-of-37. The Panthers controlled the boards with a 49-30 edge, including 21-12 on the offensive glass.

"We shot the ball well and we were good from the foul line," Buchanan pointed out. "Rebounds played a big role in the outcome and we were plus 19 on the boards."

The Panthers led by seven, 18-11, after the first quarter. The Lions rallied in the second period to go up 35-34 at halftime.

The Panthers took the lead for good in the third quarter. Tied at 43, Walthall completed a three-point play with 5:49 left in the period for a 46-43 lead. The Panthers held a slim 58-56 lead heading into the final quarter.

Leading 73-69 with just over two minutes left, the Panthers ran off six straight points to take a commaning 10-point lead. Walthall's jumper started the spurt, followed by Kelsey Mitchell and Barker making two free throws each.

The Panthers finished 11-5 in conference play and their seeding for next week's USA South Tournament will be determined Sunday.