Trojans Rebound For 67-52 Victory Over Lees-McRae

Leah Graham's fastbreak layup after blocking a three-point attempt
Leah Graham's fastbreak layup after blocking a three-point attempt

University of Mount Olive saw a 15-point second-half lead cut to three, but Leah Graham's shot block and fastbreak layup helped thwart Lees-McRae's rally and the Trojans went on to defeat the Bobcats 67-52 in Conference Carolinas women's basketball Wednesday at Kornegay Arena. The Trojans outrebounded Lees-McRae 50-33 as Graham pulled down a career-high 12 rebounds, while Ty Wallace and Anamaria Zjacic also established career highs with 13 boards apiece.

Both teams struggled with turnovers and missed shots early in the second half as Katie Paschal's scoop shot in the lane with 18:07 left gave Mount Olive (9-7 overall, 4-4 Conference Carolinas) its biggest lead at 40-25. Lees-McRae missed its first six shots of the second half before Kerri Belcher's three-point play with 15:45 remaining ended the Bobcats' drought.

Mount Olive went through a scoring drought of its own as Lees-McRae held the Trojans to a single free throw over a span of eight minutes. Belcher added two more jumpers and Layana De Souza added four points to a 13-1 run to pull the Bobcats within 41-38 with 10:51 left to play. Wallace's layup snapped Mount Olive's drought and Jasmine McDonald's three-pointer with 7:37 left brought the lead back to double figures at 50-40.

Lees-McRae pulled within six points before Graham's heroics helped Mount Olive seal the win. Graham blocked a three-point attempt from the right wing, grabbed the rebound and went the length of the court for an uncontested layup to extend the Trojans' lead to 55-45 with 5:33 remaining. Mount Olive held the Bobcats to three points the rest of the way.

In the first half, Kirksten Mitchell hit a three-pointer a half-minute after entering the game for the first time and put the Trojans on top to stay 10-9 with 14:43 left before halftime. A jumper and another three-pointer by Mitchell highlighted a 10-0 run and Wallace's layup after retrieving a loose ball under the basket gave Mount Olive its first double-digit lead at 25-14 with 7:45 remaining.

Lees-McRae came back with six unanswered points in a span of less than two minutes, but Mitchell stopped the run and Joneiqua Gary's three-pointer put the Trojans' lead back to double figures at 30-20 with 3:23 left. After a Bobcat free throw, Mitchell's third three-pointer of the half and Graham's layup with 2:01 left gave Mount Olive its biggest lead at 35-21.

Alyssa Munson hit 4-of-4 free throws to pull Lees-McRae within 10, but Graham's putback kept Mount Olive's lead in double figures and the Trojans went into the locker room with a 38-25 halftime advantage.

Mitchell scored 15 of her 19 points in the first half for Mount Olive, while Paschal finished with 14 points and Paschal added 10 points. McDonald was 3-for-4 from three-point range. Mitchell also led the Trojans with four assists.

Munson led all players with 20 points for Lees-McRae, including 8-for-8 from the line. Belcher narrowly missed a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds.

Mount Olive returns to action Saturday as the Trojans travel to Spartanburg, S.C., to take on Converse in a Conference Carolinas match-up. Mount Olive won the first meeting 94-55 January 2 at Kornegay Arena. Tip-off is 2 p.m.