SAINT LEO, Fla. – The Saint Leo women’s basketball team (2-0) defeated the Georgia Southwestern State University Hurricanes (1-2), 77-75, on the opening night of the Sleep Inn Classic, Friday evening from the Marion Bowman Activities Center.
On the night, four Lions’ players scored in double figures including a game-high 15 points by Willonda Windham. Lauren Lee also found herself on that list posting a season-high 14 points and nine rebounds. Senior guard Sierra Williams chipped in 12 points and five rebounds, while Dominique Daniels continued her solid start to the season contributing 11 points and five boards. Brittany Carannante led the team in assists with five on top of scoring nine points and pulling down four rebounds.
In the first half, both teams matched each other in intensity, and through the first 10 minutes of the initial period, the score remained close with SLU holding a slight 22-20 advantage. However, from that moment on the Lions appeared to find a groove and by the 4:53 mark, Saint Leo increased their lead to the largest point advantage of the half, seven. Leading the charge for the Green & Gold on the 10-5 run was Lee and her superb free throw shooting in which she was 4-for-4 at the stripe. SLU used the final four minutes of the half to keep the lead near the seven points. Lee helped preserve the seven point advantage scoring four straight points at the end of the half making the score 44-to-37 going into the break.
Although, the action really began to heat up in the second half. Saint Leo had their seven point advantage quickly erased, as the Hurricanes went on a 16-4 run to start the second half; eventually gaining a five point advantage with 12:02 left in regulation. Still, the Lions remained resilient, as Daniels, Windham, and Lee teamed together to score five straight points to even the score at 53. The back and forth tussle continued until it appeared Georgia Southwestern gained control of the contest with a 10 -1 run in a three minute time span.
Despite a 63-54 lead by the Hurricanes, the Lions, sparked by a three-point basket by Carannante, went on a 12-4 run to regain a one point lead on a jumper by Daniels with 2:59 to play in regulation. Windham stretched the lead to three on a basket a few moments. The Hurricanes evened the score at 71 apiece with 1:12 left, but that was as close as GSW came as Saint Leo scored six of the final 10 points to lockup the testy, hard-fought game.
As a team, the Lions outshot the Hurricanes 40.0 % (26-for-65) to 39.1 % (25-for-64). Defensively however, the Lions used pressure defense to force 33 turnovers of the Hurricanes, turnovers which they converted into 25 points. Despite GSW have a slight edge in rebounding, 51-to-46, the Lions out-blocked the Georgia Southwestern, 8-to-5.
Head Coach Chanita Olds went on to say, “The girls played with pride tonight, they dug deep and left everything out on the court; there is nothing else more I could ask of my girls, it was a big regional win and I am very proud of their effort.”
The Lions return to action Saturday, November 21st, as the University of Puerto Rico-Bayamon is welcomed to the Bowman Center on the second day of the Sleep Inn Classic. Tip-off for the event is set for 7:30 p.m.