Crunch time came a little early in College of Charleston's 60-54 win over Northern Kentucky on Saturday night at TD Arena.
The Cougars were working with a comfortable lead early in the second half when Northern Kentucky hit a couple of 3-pointers to slice the margin to one. After a timeout by Charleston coach Natasha Adair, freshman guard Breanna Bolden went to work.
Bolden scored the next two Cougar buckets and six of their next 10 points as College of Charleston rebuilt the lead back to 10, and held on from there to advance to the semifinals of the Women's Basketball Invitational.
"That was huge," said Adair, whose No. 2-seeded Cougars will host No. 4 Stephen F. Austin in a semifinal game on Thursday. "Bre Bolden, as a freshman ... well, we tell her now she's a sophomore because we are in postseason. She's a matchup nightmare, because she can take you to the hole, shoot the three, get the rebound."
Bolden, 5-11 and from Edgewater, Md., did a little of everything as the Cougars improved to 19-14 on the season. She scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds to go along with two steals, then talked about what this postseason run means to the Cougars.
"This means a lot," said Bolden, who made the Colonial Athletic Association all-rookie team this season. "To cut down the nets and have a WBI banner on the court, that would be a great success."
Senior guard Afreyea Tolbert added a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, and senior Alyssa Frye scored 12 points for the Cougars, who made 16 steals and claimed a 58-46 edge on the boards.
College of Charleston's administration has stepped up to help the Cougars play in the postseason at home, where they are 12-3 this season. The WBI title game, set for March 29 or 30, will be played on one of the participants' home court, depending on seeding and bids.
"For our seniors to walk out of here as champions, that's more important than anything," said Adair, who has taken the Cougars to the WBI in each of her first two seasons. "This group is very selfless. They are sisters and we are a family, and they want to build something here, to leave a legacy. Last year, we felt like we started it and this year we want to continue it."
Northern Kentucky, which went 13-5 this season in the Atlantic Sun, ended its season with a 18-13 record. Sophomore guard Christine Roush scored 14 points for the Norse, who also lost to College of Charleston in last year's WBI.
The Cougars' next opponent, Stephen F. Austin, is 22-12 this season after an 80-59 win over Boise State on Saturday. The Ladyjacks, from Nacogdoches, Texas, were 13-5 in the Southland Conference this season and are coached by Brandon Schneider. They are led by 6-2 junior center Porsha Roberts (16.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and 5-7 junior guard Brittney Matthew.