Ciara Gregory drives toward the basket. Photo by Kathleen Cook

The Charlotte 49ers women’s basketball team won the battle on the boards and the game, defeating the Thundering Herd of Marshall 71-66 in the first round of the Conference USA tournament on Wednesday afternoon. Charlotte (21-9, 12-6 C-USA) tallied 60 rebounds during the contest compared to a Marshall (13-17, 5-13 C-USA) who totaled only 39 boards.

The preparation the team has been putting in the past few weeks was showcased on the hardwood in the team’s determination and their chemistry.

“I told them in some ways the first game is the hardest. Everybody on this team wants to do and finish well and once we got over the tightness we played well,” head coach Cara Consuegra said. “I told them in the locker room that three week ago we don’t win that game but today is a testament to how far we’ve come. Our kids never folded and stayed strong and stayed together to win the game.”

The 49ers were led in the points column by Ciara Gregory and Nyilah Jamison-Myers with 19 each. Gregory reached a milestone in the first quarter of the game, when she recorded her 1,000th career point off of a shot from behind the arc. Fellow senior Lefty Webster also was in double digits with 12 points. Webster also reached a milestone, sliding into the fifth spot for all-time points in program history. Rounding out the top scorers was Amaya Ransom who finished with 10 points.

Grace Hunter almost pulled off the double-double finishing with seven points and 13 rebounds. Webster was close to a double-double as well, totaling nine rebounds. Jaida Robinson also snagged nine rebounds.

Gregory opened the game with a three pointer at the 8:22 mark in the first quarter. The two teams would exchange baskets for the remainder of the frame and the Thundering Herd possessed the lead at the end of the first quarter, 13-11. The 49ers defense was on pointe, not allowing Marshall to score any three pointers.

Marshall claimed an eight point lead during the second quarter, but that was the largest advantage the Thundering Herd had for the remainder of the game. The Charlotte comeback was sparked by a Webster three. The Niners eclipsed Marshall with Ransom’s shot from behind the arc with 3:15 left in the second frame to make a 25-22 game. Charlotte then increased the margin to seven, holding a 29-22 lead heading to the half.

Both Marshall and the 49ers posted 23 points in the third quarter. The Thundering Herd capitalized on Charlotte turnovers and off of second chance points to stay in the game only behind 52-45 heading to the final 10 minutes.

Marshall came back, creating a tied game at 63 all with 4:30 remaining on the clock. Two free throws would give the Thundering Herd the lead with 2:57 remaining. The two teams went back and forth until a a layup from Jamison-Myers, two of her eight points of the quarter, pushed them to a 67-66 lead with 1:55 left. Free throws helped distance the 49ers, giving the game a final score of 71-66.

Charlotte moves on to battle Louisiana Tech tomorrow at 3 p.m. in Bartow Arena.

Kathleen Cook is the sports editor of the Niner Times and from Wake Forest, North Carolina. When the junior communication major/journalism minor isn't covering the 49ers, she enjoys spending time with her family, friend, and dog. Kathleen can also be found cheering on the Panthers every Sunday and rooting for the Washington Nationals.