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Scots face tough field as hosts for NCAA women’s tourney openers

Maryville College’s Mackenzie Puckett, Brittany Johnson and Haley Talbott are excited about being at home for the first round of the big dance. 

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

The reaction was muted initially.

They knew they were in.

When the Maryville College women’s basketball team was informed the brackets on the screen meant they would host the first two rounds of the NCAA Division III tournament this weekend, the room took off.

“I feel like we play really well at home,” sophomore Madison Maples, the Scots second-leading scorer, said.

Farragut High School product Madison Maples has proven a major addition for the Scots since transferring in December.

Farragut High School product Madison Maples has proven a major addition for the Scots since transferring in December.

The Scots (24-3) meet the University of Mary Washington (24-4) in a first round game Friday at 7:30 at Boydson Baird Gymnasium. Lynchburg (24-4) and Birmingham Southern (24-3) clash in the other half of the bracket at 5:30.

The winners meet Saturday at 6

“I’m very excited about (hosting),” Maryville coach Darrin Travillian said. “The kids will get to play at home again, and home court has been good to us.”

It’s always fun to get inside the numbers with sporting events of this magnitude. The selection committee made Maryville the host site, but this is certainly no cakewalk to the regionals for the Scots. Conference champions each, Birmingham Southern, Lynchburg and Mary Washington are balanced, deep teams.

Here’s our take on players to watch this weekend:

Mary Washington Eagles (24-4)

USA Today DIII Top 25 ranking: 20

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Keep your eye on: No Eagle intrigues us more than senior guard Megan Green. While 7.4 points per game isn’t a big number, it tells you she can score. Her percentages — 43.5 from 2, 34.4 on treys — indicate she has the potential to get really, really hot. Add 4.4 rebounds per game and 4.5 assists, and you’ve got a ball player. There’s also the obvious: leading scorer Brianne Comden, who’s shooting 58.4 percent from the field!

Maryville College Scots (24-3)

USA Today DIII Top 25 ranking: 12

10Mackenzie Puckett15.21.944.233.32.7
45Madison Maples14.1N/A46.642.21.4
24Allyson Freiermuth8.26.951.5N/AN/A
23Lauren Biliter7.
33Rachel Hawn 5.84.750.7N/AN/A

Keep an eye on: An All-American and two-time conference player of the year, Mackenzie Puckett is an electrifying player to watch. Sophomore forward Madison Maples is a pure shooter. The Scots have the shooters and rebounders. We’re partial to players who can really D-up, and that’s why we think guards Jordan Ballard (2.7 steals per game) and Joanna Young (2.5) will be key.

Lynchburg Hornets (24-4)

USA Today DIII Top 25 ranking: Not ranked

30Chaney Forbush15.07.853.5N/A0.8
13Charmaine Hairston10.62.433.2N/A1.3
45Caroline Naumann10.67.944.0N/A1.0
22Sarah Coronel8.85.640.4N/A
23Olivia Defrancesco7.52.531.528.41.8

Keep an eye on: It’s right up front with the Hornets. Literally. The top three scorers — Chaney Forbush, Charmaine Hairston, Caroline Naumann — don’t bomb away from 3. They get it inside. Shoot a sensation percentage. They rebound, and each of them shoots in the 70s from the free-throw line. The post game is so big come tournament time. Pay no attention to the Hornets not being ranked.

Birmingham Southern Panthers (24-3)

USA Today DIII Top 25 ranking: Not ranked

33Yorisha Bryant16.09.349.8N/A1.3
11Jasmynn Batts10.93.246.330.21.8
3Halle Knowles9.32.734.528.53.0
14Jameice Holmes7.44.342.538.21.9
1Ashley Curry7.02.335.5N/A2.7

Keep an eye on: The Panthers enter with the top scorer among this weekend’s combatants in 6-foot-2 senior Yorisha Bryant. The Los Angeles native has come a long way for this, and her numbers are A-list stuff: 16.0 points per game, 9.3 rebounds, 49.8 percentage on field goals. The danger player may prove junior guard Jamaica Holmes out of Nashville. She’s hitting 38 percent of her 3s and grabbing almost five boards an outing.

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