Ni'ya Styles hit seven three-pointers and matched a career high with 26 points, but University of Mount Olive's bid for a fourth consecutive appearance in the Championship Game was denied as the second-seeded Trojans fell to No. 3 seed King University 74-70 in the semifinal round of the 2016 Conference Carolinas Women's Basketball Tournament Thursday at Gaffney, S.C. Styles hit three of her three-pointers in the final 65 seconds to spark a late comeback, but the Trojans' nine-game winning streak came to an end.
Neither team led by more than eight points in the contest, which saw 11 ties and seven lead changes. Mount Olive's last lead was 57-55 after Felicity Havens' layup with 8:40 left to play. A King free throw with 6:32 remaining broke a 57-57 tie and the Tornado led the rest of the way.
Kiara Jones' layup with 2:50 remaining halted a 7-0 Tornado run and pulled the Trojans within 62-59. King extended its lead to six before Mount Olive (19-11) sandwiched a Havens jumper and a Styles three-pointer to close the gap to 67-64 with 1:05 left to play.
King (19-11) hit 5-of-6 free throws and gave the Tornado their biggest lead at 72-64 with 33 seconds remaining. Styles' three-pointer made it a two-possession game with 23 seconds left at 72-67.
The Tornado answered with a pair of Ashley Albertson free throws with 18 seconds left. After the two teams exchanged possessions, Styles hit another three with three seconds remaining. Time expired after a pair of King missed free throws.
Styles hit a three-pointer on the first possession of the game and added two more three's in the first quarter. Mount Olive rallied from a seven-point deficit to tie the game 17-17 in the first quarter, then fell behind by six points early in the second quarter.
Tomarrah Harris hit a three-pointer, Styles' jumper put Mount Olive back on top and Kiara Jones' layup capped a 13-2 run to give the Trojans their biggest lead of the game at 30-25 with 2:32 left before halftime. King came back with three-pointers by Albertson, Jalan Harper and Sheena Johnson in the final two minutes, but Styles' layup with 30 seconds remaining kept the Trojans on top 35-34 at the half.
The third quarter began as a battle of three's as Shy'lia Buie hit from beyond the arc for Mount Olive. Harper hit two more three-pointers for King and Johnson added a three-pointer to give the Tornado a 43-40 lead with 7:02 left in the quarter.
Havens' three-point play tied the game 49-49 and after a Whitney Mitchell layup for King, Styles put Mount Olive back on top 52-51 with a three-pointer with 2:34 left in the quarter. Buie converted her own steal into a fastbreak layup for the Trojans, while Johnson hit again from three-point range for the Tornado as the two teams entered the fourth quarter tied 55-55.
Havens scored the first basket of the first quarter before King came back to take the lead for good.
Styles tied with Joneiqua Gary (2013-14) and Meaghan Vanderhorst (2006-07) for the second highest single-game three-pointer total in school history. The school record is nine three-pointers by Hope Joseph during the 2000-01 season.
Havens recorded a double-double for Mount Olive with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Arieal Johnson, who became the first player in Trojan women's basketball history to average a double-double in back-to-back years, came within two points and a rebound of recording her 12th double-double of the season. Buie dished out a game-high seven assists.
Albertson finished with 20 points for King, while Johnson scored 14 points and Harper added 13 points.
Mount Olive and King split their regular season series, each team winning on the other's home floor. The Trojans defeated King 72-69 last year in the first round of the conference tournament.
The Trojans had reached the Championship Game in each of the previous three years and in six of the previous eight years, winning championships in 2008 and 2013. Mount Olive came within one win of reaching the 20-win mark for the first time in five years.