Joneiqua Gary hit six three-pointers for a game-high 20 points and three Mount Olive players reached double digits in rebounds as the Trojans defeated Belmont Abbey 63-56 in Conference Carolinas women's basketball Thursday at Kornegay Arena. Jasmine McDonald pulled down 11 rebounds, while Alyssa Luebs and Tamara Nesmith added 10 boards apiece as the Trojans outrebounded the Crusaders 42-28.
Gary's six three-pointers are the third highest single game total in school history. Hope Joseph made nine in 2001 against Coker, while Meaghan Vanderhorst made seven against UNC Pembroke in 2006.
Mount Olive's tenacity on the boards helped the Trojans (12-3 overall, 8-3 CC) build a 21-11 cushion with less than five minutes remaining in the first half. The Trojans out-rebounded the Crusaders 23-9 in the first 20 minutes. Despite committing nine turnovers, Mount Olive stretched its lead to 12 before intermission.
In the second half, the Crusaders (7-8, 5-5 CC) began taking advantage of the Trojans' miscues. Kelsey Long hit three free throws started a 10-1 run that gave Belmont Abbey its first lead since the opening minute of the game. A steal and lay-up by Morgan Midkiff gave the Crusaders a 45-43 advantage with 10:25 remaining. After trading baskets, McKenzie Owen converted a three-point play to give Belmont Abbey its final lead.
Then Gary took over on offense. Gary's three-pointer with 8:38 left pulled the Trojans even 48-48, then after a Nesmith offensive rebound and basket, Gary delivered her sixth long-range bomb to put Mount Olive ahead for good.
Belmont Abbey stayed within two possessions down the stretch, but got no closer than two points on a Candace Fox three-pointer with 4:09 left. Fox's basket was the Crusaders' last basket.
In the final 3:47, Mount Olive got six free throws from Nesmith and McDonald to put the game away.
Gary's three three-pointers in the first half kept Mount Olive in front in a low-scoring first half. Mount Olive held Belmont Abbey to just 37 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes. With less than five minutes remaining in the half, the Crusaders had just 11 points. The Trojans built leads of 15-4 and 19-9 early. Belmont Abbey was able to pick up the pace with dribble penetration allowing for close-in shots, scoring 18 points in the paint.
Mount Olive countered with second-chance points and three-pointers by McDonald and Gary.
Nesmith (16 points) and McDonald (14) joined Gary in double-figures. Nesmith, who leads the conference in rebounding, recorded her ninth double-double of the season, while McDonald recorded her third.
Mount Olive returns to action Saturday when Limestone travels to Kornegay Arena for a 2 p.m. start.