Aerial Johnson notched her first career "20-20" game and came within two blocks of the fifth triple-double in University of Mount Olive women's basketball history, but it was not enough as the Trojans fell to Catawba College 76-67 in day one of the South Atlantic Conference/Conference Carolinas Challenge Friday at Charlotte, N.C. Johnson finished with 21 points, 20 rebounds and eight blocked shots. The game was the season opener for both teams.
Friday's contest marked Mount Olive's first-ever regular season game played under the new format of four 10-minute periods, which replaced the original format of two 20-minute halves.
After leading by two at halftime, Mount Olive (0-1) fell behind 46-37 in a third period that saw the Trojans hit only one field goal, but stay in the game by hitting 16-of-18 free throws. Mount Olive regained the lead 53-52 on Tomarrah Harris' two free throws with three seconds left in the period. But Morgan Franklin answered with a three-pointer for Catawba just before the buzzer to put the Indians back on top.
Catawba (1-0) built the lead to seven before Jada Bacchus' jumper and Johnson's layup pulled Mount Olive within 60-57 with 6:22 left to play. Bacchus' basket was the Trojans' first field goal in 10 minutes and ended a streak of 16 consecutive points from the free throw line.
Johnson's layup with 5:09 left answered a Catawba basket, but Mount Olive would not get any closer than three points the rest of the way. The margin grew to as many as 11 points before Shy'Lia Buie hit a pair of baskets in the final 16 seconds.
Mount Olive trailed early before Buie's putback with 2:31 left in the first quarter broke a 14-14 tie and triggered a 6-0 run. Janna Dixon hit Catawba's third 3-pointer of the period and the Indians cut the Trojans' lead to 20-17 at the end of one quarter.
Catawba continued a 9-2 run and regained the lead 23-22 on Serena Brown's jumper with 6:46 left before halftime. Mount Olive rallied and Tache Sommers' jumper with 2:06 left gave the Trojans their biggest lead of the night at 33-27 with 2:06 remaining.
Catawba scored the next six points to tie the game, but Johnson found Kiara Jones for a layup with 10 seconds left to give Mount Olive a 35-33 lead at intermission. Johnson already had a double-double in the first half with 13 points and 11 rebounds to go with four blocks.
Johnson pulled down 20 rebounds last January against North Greenville and is now the only Trojan women's basketball player to reach the 20-rebound mark on two occasions. UMO Athletics Hall of Famer Twana Jeeter holds the school record with 23 rebounds, while Jasmine Whitby is tied with Johnson with 20 rebounds. Whitby scored 32 points for the only "30-20" game in school history.
Johnson's broke the UMO blocked shots record after tying the previous record of six blocks on three occasions last season.
Bacchus joined Johnson in double figures with 10 points and led all players with five steals. The Trojans were 19-for-27 from the free throw line, but went 0-for-8 from three-point range.
Catawba was led by Bri Johnson who scored a game-high 28 points.
Mount Olive concludes tournament play Saturday as the Trojans take on tournament host Queens University of Charlotte. The Trojans defeated the Royals 54-44 in last year's tournament. Queens left Conference Carolinas after the 2012-13 academic year to join the South Atlantic Conference. Tip-off is 4 p.m.