Three-pointers by Katie Paschal and Andrea Jones five seconds apart cut a nine-point deficit down to three in the final half-minute, but University of Mount Olive's rally came up short as the Trojans fell to Lees-McRae College 80-73 in Conference Carolinas women's basketball Wednesday at Banner Elk, N.C. The loss was Mount Olive's second in three days after compiling a season-high seven-game winning streak.
Mount Olive (15-9 overall, 10-6 Conference Carolinas) trailed the entire game and was down 61-51 with just over six minutes left in the contest. Lees-McRae (12-13, 9-7) appeared to seal the win when Icey Patterson's transition layup after a Trojan miss gave the Bobcats a 76-67 lead with 30 seconds remaining.
Paschal hit a three-pointer with 23 seconds left and after Lees-McRae missed the front end of a one-and-one, Jones followed with her third 3-pointer of the night to pull the Trojans within 76-73 with 18 seconds remaining. Lees-McRae made it a two-possession game after Lauren Lewis hit a pair of free throws with 14 seconds. Mount Olive's comeback hopes were dashed when Lewis blocked a Trojan three-point attempt with seven seconds left. The Bobcats added a pair of free throws for the final score.
The Trojans had trailed by 11 points late in the first half, but Ty Wallace's basket less than 30 seconds into the second half capped a 10-0 run to pull Mount Olive within 31-30. Lewis stopped the Trojans' run with a three-pointer and canned another three-pointer with 9:43 remaining to build the lead to double digits again at 54-44. Lees-McRae maintained a two-possession lead until the three-pointers by Paschal and Jones.
Mount Olive fell behind 17-6 nine minutes into the contest after a steal and layup by Layana De Souza. Layups by Wallace and Anamaria Zjacic cut the margin to single digits, but Lees-McRae matched its biggest lead of the game at 31-20 on Kerri Belcher's three-pointer with 2:49 left before halftime.
The Trojans held the Bobcats scoreless the remainder of the half and scored the final eight points to make it a one-possession game going into the break. Jones answered Belcher's three-pointer with a three on Mount Olive's next possession and Paschal sank a pair of free throws with exactly one minute left.
After a Lees-McRae turnover, Kirksten Mitchell hit her second three-pointer of the half with 26 seconds left and the Trojans pulled within 31-28 at the half.
Mitchell hit 4-of-7 three-pointers and went 6-for-10 from the field to lead four Trojans in double figures with 18 points. Paschal finished with 15 points, while Jones and Wallace added 13 points apiece. As a team, Mount Olive shot 57.1 percent (16-for-28) from the field and 50.0 percent (5-for-10) from three-point range in the second half. Jasmine McDonald pulled down 10 rebounds, but the Trojans were outrebounded 39-29.
Lewis led all players with 22 points for Lees-McRae, while Belcher added 18 points. The two combined for seven three-pointers in 10 attempts.
Despite the current two-game losing skid, Mount Olive remains in third place in the conference standings and in contention to host a quarterfinal-round game in the 2014 Conference Carolinas Women's Basketball Tournament, which gets underway March 1. The Trojans already secured a berth in the eight-team tournament.
Mount Olive returns to action Saturday as the Trojans travel to Gaffney, S.C., to take on conference lead Limestone. Tip-off is 5:30 p.m.