published Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

Five Mocs seniors end home careers today

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    UTC's guard Alex Black (21) drives the ball against the Western Carolina Catamounts at McKenzie Arena in this file photo.
    Photo by C. B. Schmelter.
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    UTC's Ashlen Dewart controls the ball against College of Charleston at McKenzie Arena in this file photo.
    Photo by Angela Lewis /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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    UTC guard Meghan Downes brings the ball down the court during their game against Auburn at McKenzie Arena on in this file photo.
    Photo by C. B. Schmelter /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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    Taylor Hall
    Photo by C. B. Schmelter.
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The quintet was pieced together through a four-year process. Now this afternoon at McKenzie Arena, five University of Tennessee at Chattanooga seniors will play their final women's basketball home game.

Alex Black, Ashlen Dewart, Meghan Downes, Faith Dupree and Taylor Hall will celebrate senior day today, as the 25-3 Mocs attempt to complete their second consecutive undefeated Southern Conference regular season. Tipoff for the game against UNC Greensboro is at 2 p.m.

The seniors have been a big part of compiling a 85-31 record for four seasons. Black, Downes, Hall and Destiny Bramblett, who is redshirting this year, were part of a six-player freshman class, along with Lynette Harris and Hannah Thurley. Thurley now is focusing on softball at UTC, while Harris transferred to Shorter University.

The Mocs later picked up Dupree from Tennessee and Dewart from Appalachian State. All have helped along the way, including giving them the most ballyhooed win in program history when they defeated the Lady Vols 80-72 in November 2012.

"That's definitely my greatest memory here," Downes said. "We all came together as a team and pulled out an amazing victory."

Both Downes and Dupree said the relationships and bonds built with current and former teammates will be their biggest memory.

"We trust each other, hang out with each other and have a good time, and those relationships are what I'd like to take with me when I gradute," Dupree said.

With a win today, the senior class would leave with a 44-5 home record and victories in their last 38 games at McKenzie Arena -- a home streak that leads the nation. The Mocs are ranked second in the CollegeInsider.com mid-major poll and fifth in the ESPN mid-major poll and received 16 votes in the most recent Associated Press Top 25, which unofficially makes them the No. 28 team in America.

It would also be their 22nd straight win and 34th straight in conference play.

The core has welcomed in Hall of Fame coach Jim Foster, who took over after Wes Moore left to become the head coach at North Carolina State. Foster himself noted that he wasn't a big fan of senior days.

"I hate them," he joked Friday evening. "If you were coaching those players, would you want them to leave?"

The senior Mocs insist that today's pregame festivities aren't part of the team's focus, which after the game will shift to the conference tournament in Asheville, N.C. The Mocs are seeded No. 1 and won't play until noon Saturday, but that doesn't mean they can't speculate on who might be the most emotional before the game.

"I think it depends on my parents, because if they cry, I'm probably going to cry," Dupree said.

Said Downes: "It will definitely be a bittersweet day, but we've struggled together, won together and we've developed a bond that'll hopefully carry on when college is over."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.

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