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A third-quarter rally by visiting University of Mount Olive created a little more drama than the Barton College women’s basketball team probably preferred to endure in Tuesday’s NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas matchup of archrivals in Wilson Gym.
The Lady Bulldogs led by as many as 13 points (56-43) in the third quarter before UMO rallied. The Trojans pulled even for the first time at 63-63 on a field goal by sensational 5-foot-11 senior Felicity Havens just 10 seconds into the fourth quarter. A three-point play from junior Jada Bacchus staked Mount Olive to its first lead of 72-70 with 4:43 remaining.
However, Summer Baer knocked down a 3-pointer with 2:37 to play to give Barton the lead for good at 76-74. The Lady Bulldogs stayed out front, thanks to a field goal each from freshman Akira Wiggins and 6-0 senior Kianna Waynn, three free throws from Wiggins and a pair of foul tosses from Wynn for the final score with 17.5 seconds left.
Mount Olive still had life but 6-2 sophomore Shanika Peterkin, despite being burdened with four fouls, twice blocked a shot in the final nine seconds and, as time expired, trapped Havens, preventing her from getting a shot off.
“I think the two blocks were important,” Peterkin understated. “I just ran after the ball. I just told myself that I have to get my hands up and I can’t swat down. If somebody runs into me, they run into me.”
Barton, in winning its 20th game against four losses, improved to 13-4 in Conference Carolinas play, won its sixth straight contest and climbed a half-game above Emmanuel (Georgia) College and Belmont Abbey for the league lead. Mount Olive fell to 14-8 in all games and 10-6 within the conference.
All five starters for Barton finished in double-figures scoring, led by the 29 points (12-of-18 shooting) of senior Kianna Wynn. Wynn, who earned Conference Carolinas Player of the Week acclaim for the third time this season on Monday, added eight rebounds. Freshman Akira Wiggins played all 40 minutes and posted 16 points. Peterkin logged a double-double of 12 points and 14 rebounds. She finished three blocks shy of a triple-double, swatting seven shots. Freshman Alexa Roberson and senior Dinah Neal had 11 and 10 points, respectively.
“I think this was my best game,” Peterkin assessed. “I felt more offensive-minded.”
Both teams enjoyed healthy shooting percentages, each converting half of their attempts. Mount Olive was 32 of 64, while Barton finished 33 of 66. The Lady Bulldogs owned the rebounding battle by a 39-29 margin.
The Lady Bulldogs jumped to a 9-2 start behind Wiggins. A 3-pointer from freshman Alexa Roberson and Wiggins’ steal and short jumper boosted the margin to 18-6.
Trailing 25-17 after one quarter, Mount Olive rallied behind Havens and freshman guard Azariah Fields, chopping the deficit to 35-30. Peterkin then keyed a 6-0 Barton spurt. The Trojans crept as close as 36-34 before Wynn netted Barton’s next seven points.
Barton, which led 43-39 at the half, never trailed nor was tied for over 33 minutes.
“We had it under control and let them catch up,” Peterkin said.
Added Barton head coach Wendee Saintsing: “We had breakdowns on defense the second quarter that we were not pleased about. Foul trouble hurt us a little bit. We were able to weather the storm.”
Of Peterkin’s blocks, Saintsing responded: “What can you say? I’m glad she’s athletic and long enough to get over there and get her hands on the ball.
“And that 3 (from Baer) was big.”
Havens fired in a game-high 35 points for Mount Olive, but the feisty senior blamed herself for missing a her only free throw in seven attempts that would have tied the score at 83-83 with 20.5 seconds left.
“I take responsibility for that,” the dejected Havens said. “But they defended the last 20 seconds and we were a little bit stagnant with the ball. But give it to them — they deserved to win.
“We knew it would be tough, intense. They’re the No. 1 team in the conference and, to know we can beat them, this definitely hurts.”
Havens was complemented by Bacchus with 20 points and Fields with 13.
The Lady Bulldogs will now go on the road for their final three games of the regular season, beginning with Lees-McRae on Saturday. Trips to King and Limestone follow.
“It’s tough for us,” Saintsing declared, “people come in here and give us their best game. We’ve got to play our best game. We’ve learned we’ve got to bring our A game. That’s what we were not doing earlier. Tonight, we did what we needed to win the game.
“It’s going to just as tough the rest of the way.”