Bobcats surge to fifth straight win with strong second half

BANNER ELK, N.C. --- The Lees-McRae College women's basketball team outscored North Greenville University by a 45-28 margin in the second half to overcome a four-point halftime deficit, extending its winning streak to five games with a 71-58 victory over the Crusaders in Conference Carolinas play on Wednesday evening in Williams Gymnasium.

Lees-McRae (6-5, 4-4 CC) celebrated the dedication of the McNair & Debi Tornow court in style with the Avery County Chamber of Commerce also in attendence, following the halftime ceremony with a stellar second half that featured a 51.9 percent clip from the floor, as the Bobcats held North Greenville (2-9, 0-7 CC) to a field goal percentage of 35.9 percent on the night. The Bobcats edged the Crusaders by a 41-38 margin on the glass, including a 29-25 advantage on the defensive boards, while converting 21 North Greenville miscues into 23 points.

Layana De Souza (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) led the way for Lees-McRae with a game-high 21 points, connecting on 8-of-16 attempts from the floor while hauling in five rebounds and notching three steals. Lauren Lewis (Concord, N.C.) added 18 points of her own with a 6-for-12 night from the field, knocking down a pair of three-pointers while grabbing six boards.

Kabrina Truesdale (Wilmington, N.C.) chipped in team-highs of eight rebounds and five assists to go along with 11 points, while Kerri Belcher (Ronaoke, Va.) posted six markers and six boards. Alyssa Munson (Summerfield, N.C.) added six boards and a game-high two blocks.

Alisha Hope paced the Crusaders with 13 points and three assists, while Aliyah Stokes and Tyler Powers each added eight markers. Timisty Nelson chipped in a game-high nine rebounds, as Ciara Anderson recorded seven points and five boards.

Lees-McRae would open the first half on a 10-3 run before the Crusaders responded, claiming a 21-16 advantage following a Powers jumper at the 5:40 mark to cap an 18-6 surge. The Bobcats would close the gap with a 6-2 spurt, cutting the lead to 23-22 on a nifty give-and-go by Tayler Collins (Fayetteville, N.C.) and De Souza with 3:38 left on the clock.

North Greenville answered once again with a 7-1 run, pushing the lead to 30-23 on a Stokes trey before Candace Flowers (Charlotte, N.C.) knocked down a buzzer-beating trifecta to cut the advantage to 30-26 heading into the intermission.

The Bobcats then joined the men's team and several College administrators, including President Dr. Barry M. Buxton and Director of Athletics Craig McPhail, to welcome the three people primarily responsible for their new playing surface. McNair and Debi Tornow, who donated the funding for the project, as well as Al Posadas, the owner of Peformance Flooring Services which sanded, painted and finished the floor, joined the Bobcats as part of the halftime dedication ceremony for the McNair and Debi Tornow Court.

Lees-McRae carried the momentum into the second half, opening the period with a 14-10 run to even the score at 40-40 on a pair of freebies by Tracia Johnson (Conway, S.C.) with 11:49 to play. Lewis gave Lees-McRae the lead 18 seconds later, knocking down her first triple of the game to kick-start a 14-4 run that was bookended by her second trifecta at the 8:13 mark, which gave the Bobcats a 54-44 advantage.

North Greenville countered with a 14-9 run over the next seven minutes, cutting the margin to 63-58 following a Hope jumper with 1:30 left on the clock. Munson and Belcher answered for the Bobcats, combining for a trio of free throws to push the lead to 66-58 with 53 seconds to go. De Souza would cap the scoring at the buzzer, intercepting the inbound after a Truesdale layup and knocking down the jumper to equal the final margin of 71-58.

Lees-McRae returns to the court on Saturday when the Bobcats travel to Hartsville, S.C. to take on Coker College in conference play at 2 p.m.

- LMC -