Kaylyn Small leads Lander past Wingate in Southeast Regional final

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AIKEN — Kaylyn Small’s basketball skills took her from Rich­mond Academy to Lander Univer­sity. Now she’s headed to San Antonio.

Small put her Lander teammates on her shoulders and carried the Lady Bearcats to an NCAA Division II Southeast Regional championship Monday night with a 72-67 double overtime win over third-seeded Wingate, sending the fourth-seeded Lady Bearcats to the Elite Eight.

Lander, which upset top seed and regional host USC Aiken in the semifinals with a relentless attack from the 3-point line, struggled from long range in the finals. But even after hitting just 1 of 13 3-point attempts in the first half, Lander still had Small.

“She kills us on the defensive end,” Wingate coach Barbara Nelson said. “If we don’t score, we’re one-and-done. She gets (17) defensive rebounds. That’s huge.”

Small tallied 19 points and 22 rebounds. She also hit 5 of 6 free throws, blocked four shots and drew two key charges on defense.

“Everybody we put her up against, no matter how difficult it is, she comes out on top defensively,” head coach Kevin Pederson said. “It’s not something that’s new. She’s been doing it all year long.”

Former Hephzibah star Jas­mine Judge had 13 points and former Glenn Hills standout Ciara Lyons added 12 for Lander.

Small’s performance earned her a spot on the South­east Regio­nal’s All-Tourna­ment team. Team­mate Brittni Johnson was named regional tournament MVP after scoring 20 points in the championship game to go with her 11- and 24-point performances in the quarterfinals and semifinals.


PLAY OF THE GAME: Brittni Johnson put Lander ahead for good with a 3-pointer off the dribble from the top of the key for a 68-65 lead with 1:26 left in double overtime.

STAR OF THE GAME: Former Richmond Academy star Kaylyn Small ruled the paint with 19 points, 22 rebounds and four blocks.

NEXT: No. 4 Lander vs. No. 1 Rollins in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight, San Antonio, March 20, 8:30 p.m.

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