Pesky North Greenville University shaved a double-digit lead to a single possession and trailed the University of Mount Olive 50-48 after three quarters Saturday afternoon.
Red-faced and frustrated, Wendy Lee looked in the eyes of each of her players.
“Who wants to go to battle?” she asked.
Her passioned plea resonated among the six seniors playing their final regular-season home contest inside Kornegay Arena.
Hope Toliver’s offensive putback ignited an early fourth-quarter rally and the Trojan women emerged victorious 70-66 over the Crusaders. Lee’s team entered the day in a three-way deadlock for third place with Limestone and Emmanuel in the Conference Carolinas standings. The top four teams host a quarterfinal-round tournament contest.
“We could have just folded, especially after playing a tough game on Wednesday [road loss at Barton], but we know that it was one that we should have won, we came together and we did it,” said fifth-year redshirt senior Jada Bacchus.
Bacchus’ driving layup and her offensive rebound/assist to Azariah Fields extended UMO’s advantage to 56-50 with 5-plus minutes remaining in regulation. Fellow senior Makayla Nichols delivered consecutive 3-pointers on assists from Fields and Bacchus, respectively.
The Crusaders (13-13 overall, 10-11 Conference Carolinas) stayed close on three-point shooting and free throws – which accounted for 14 of their 18 fourth-quarter points.
“We just let up,” Bacchus said. “We got too comfortable, so that’s something we have to fix going down the road especially into the conference tournament. Making the adjustments in practice, learning how to keep the lead instead of letting it get down to one possession especially knowing that we’re better than that.
“Defense, rebounding, we pulled it out.”
Toliver and Fields combined to drain four free throws in the final 26.8 seconds to seal the outcome and regular-season sweep of NGU. Toliver just missed a double-double with 12 points and eight rebounds. Nichols added 11 points and Sherry Johnson provided 10, including eight in the third quarter.
Bacchus logged a double-double – 21 points, 10 rebounds.
“[Senior day win] means a lot, especially after being here for five years,” Bacchus said. “[We were] able to pull it out. It was close towards the end, but we came together and did it as a team.”
The Trojan women (18-7, 15-6) concluded regular-season play Tuesday at No. 11-ranked Belmont Abbey.