DAHLONEGA, Ga. – The North Georgia College & State University's women's basketball team had all five starters finish with double-digit points and shot 52.6% from the field as a team, but it came down to one missed free throw that Georgia College's Brandi McKinney converted into a last second layup. That layup gave the Bobcats a 72-71 victory Saturday night inside Memorial Hall Gymnasium and kept them perfect in Peach Belt Conference action while the Saints suffered their first conference loss of the season.
North Georgia had entered the weekend as one of only three unbeaten teams in conference play in the West Division along with Georgia College and nationally-ranked Clayton State University but the loss drops them to 4-6 for the year and 2-1 in league action while falling to fourth in the division. The win keeps the Bobcats atop of the division standings with No. 4 Clayton State with a 4-0 mark in the Peach Belt and 8-3 record overall.
While North Georgia was efficient from the field, converting 30 of 57 shots that included 9-of-18 from three-point range, the Saints were unable to capitalize on the few chances they were given from the free throw line. Combined, the Saint Women went 2-7 from the charity stripe while the Bobcat Women were able to convert all four of their attempts.
The starting five for the Saints all finished with double-digit point totals led by junior forward Jaymee Carnes and sophomore guard Stephanie Huffman. Neither of the duo left the court during the contest as Carnes led the team with 17 points ahead of Huffman's 16. Both were also very close to earning double-doubles with Huffman leading all players with nine rebounds ahead of Carnes' eight boards.
The duo of freshmen guards Keeley Chester and Molley Rainwater ended with 11 and 14 points respectively while junior transfer Mimi Hill wrapped up her 36 minutes of action with 10 points. Hill also put her size to good use as she collected seven rebounds.
Georgia College finished the 40 minutes shooting 42.6% (29-68) from the field led by McKinney's 23 points off the bench. She alone went 9-18 that included sinking a game-high five three-pointers to go along with two rebounds, two assists and two steals.
The other two players to finish in double-digit point totals were Shanteona Keys with 17 and Enisha Donley with 14 points.
The Bobcats showed what a dangerous team they could be from the start as they jumped out to a 6-0 lead off a pair of three-pointers from Thresia Elskamp and Keys before Rainwater put the Saints on the board with a trey of her own three minutes into the contest.
From there, the two teams continued to light up the scoreboard, going point-for-point with the Saints unable to find a lead until a three-pointer from Chester with 1:40 remaining in the half gave North Georgia the 28-25 lead.
North Georgia ended the final two minutes of the opening half of play on a 7-2 run to give the Saints a 32-27 lead at the break.
Despite Georgia College scoring the first two points of the second half, Carnes was able to answer and four minutes into the stanza, Hill was able to give the Saints an 11-point, 42-31 lead.
But Georgia College would not go away and slowly worked to within just one point of North Georgia with 16 seconds remaining as Donley made a jumper.
On the ensuing drive, Carnes was fouled in a 1-and-1 situation, but her shot looped out of the rim and fell to Elskamp. The Bobcats were able to work the clock down and eventually got the ball to their hottest shooter, McKinney who drove into the lane and laid the ball up with just one second remaining, giving the Saints no chance to match.
North Georgia has one more home game before hitting the road again for another pair of games. The Saints will unveil the school's new name on Thursday, January 10 and will play under the new name, the University of North Georgia, for the first time at 5:30 p.m. when the University of Montevallo (8-5, 3-1 PBC) comes to Dahlonega for another key PBC West Division matchup. The game will also serve as North Georgia's "Greek Life Night."