Lady Saints Halt Patriots, Battle Back with 67-63 Win
FLORENCE, SC – The North Georgia women's basketball team battled back from a double-digit first-half deficit on Wednesday evening, traveling to the Smith Center on the campus of Francis Marion University and pulling out a 67-63 victory in Peach Belt Conference action.
The Lady Saints get back on track after dropping three straight, improving to 14-9 overall and 5-7 in the Peach Belt Conference. The Patriots, who entered the game as one of the hottest teams in the league with eight straight wins, fall for the first time since January 12, falling to 15-6 overall and 8-5 in conference action.
Francis Marion never trailed in the opening half, jumping out a seven-point lead just four minutes into the game as Shannon Singleton-Bates raced out in transition and hit a jumper to make it 11-4 with 16:10 remaining in the half.
The Lady Saints cut the lead right back to a single bucket as Jasmine Manning answered and connected on back-to-back layups, making it an 11-8 lead by the Patriots with 14:50 left.
Francis Marion extended their lead to double-digits at the 11:51 mark as T.T. Belcher got a layup to go, making it a 10-point Patriot lead at 20-10. Meredith Montgomery answered 28 seconds later on the other end, draining a three-pointer to make it a seven-point lead once again, but FMU's Courtney Mealing matched Montgomery with a long ball of her own on the ensuing possession, giving the Patriots a 23-13 advantage with 11:10 remaining in the half.
The Lady Saints trailed by as many as 12 points in the opening half before slowly chipping away at the lead and pulling to within three points in the final minute as Montgomery's jumper with 48 seconds remaining, and Janyce Ealey's layup with just before the buzzer sounded sent the game into intermission with Patriots holding a slight 38-35 lead.
North Georgia came out in the second half and quickly took control, opening the period on a 9-2 run to take their first lead of contest, pulling ahead 44-40 on a pair of free throws by Lindsey Moss at the 16:44 mark.
In a game of runs, the Patriots answered right back over the next five minutes, going on a 15-4 run to take the lead right back at 55-48. Brittany Christian capped the run with a three-pointer with 11:56 remaining, giving Francis Marion a seven-point lead once again
The Lady Saints battled from behind until the 3:08 mark when Montgomery hit one of two attempts from the free throw line, giving North Georgia the edge at 61-60. The lead changed hands three more times before Moss broke a deadlock with 20 seconds remaining, getting a jumper to go from 15 feet to put the Lady Saints back out in front at 65-63. Following a defensive stand, Moss was fouled and the junior hit both free throw attempts, sending North Georgia to their first win in four attempts.
Ealey led North Georgia with a game-high 21 points and 18 rebounds for her eighth double-double of the year, while Montgomery added a season-high 18 points on 5-for-8 shooting from the field. Moss finished in double figures with 12 points, including a perfect 6-for-6 stint from the free throw line.
Singleton-Bates paced the Patriots with 16 points, while Mealing added 15 points and two assists in 37 minutes of action.
The Lady Saints return to action over the weekend, welcoming UNC Pembroke to town for another Peach Belt Conference matchup. Tip-off against the Braves is set for 1:30 p.m. in Memorial Hall.