One could say that SWU won the first “quarter” and the Flames claimed the second. The third period was commanded by the host team, but the Warriors lived up to their name and also pulled off a major upset with a fourth stanza comeback.
Lee improved to 23-1 overall and 12-1 in SSAC play with a spine-tingling 85-83 win. The victory sets up an SSAC showdown on Saturday (7 p.m.) when the second-ranked Flames host ninth-ranked Emmanuel College (22-2, 11-1).
Southern Wesleyan led by as many as 11 points in the first half, but then Warriors post players Kenny Joyner and Nikola Lambic went to the bench with foul problems. The Flames promptly rallied and held a slim 35-31 margin at the half. Will Barnes and Jamorris tallied 21 of Lee's 35 points in the first 20 minutes.
With 7:58 remaining in the heated contest, the Flames rode the shooting of Gaines and Chad Lee to a 16-point advantage. But SWU was not about to go away without a fight and actually took a wild 3-point shot that could have won the game, and then got one final desperation shot at the 1.9-second mark after Lee missed a free throw.
Coach Tommy Brown was not pleased with his club's overall effort, and said way too much attention was paid to the upcoming game with Emmanuel instead of focusing on Southern Wesleyan. "We came out flat," he commented immediately after the win. "Then we played well for a while and then let up. Right now I don't think our maturity level is high enough to beat Emmanuel. They play hard and follow instructions. Our energy level will have to change or we'll get beat by 30 on Saturday."
Brown said he was not taking anything away from Southern Wesleyan. "They gave a great effort and said they wanted to play us again. We had chances to put them away and did not. Their big guys played well and they made some big shots to get back in the game, and we helped them with turnovers."
Turnovers helped the Warriors make a serious run in the final seven minutes. After Lee turned the ball over only three times in the first half, it committed 13 overall and many came in the late furious SWU run. The rebounding battle was even at 36 apiece. The field goal percentage was almost the same, .485 for Lee and .484 for Southern Wesleyan. Nine 3-pointers in 19 attempts helped the winning cause. The Warriors made only 6-of-19.
At the same time, Lee, one of the nation's best free-throw shooting team, made just 16-of-25. SWU knocked down 13-of-17. The Flames used depth to claim a huge advantage, outscoring the Warriors 41-10 in points off the bench. However, SWU had a slim 46-42 lead in points in the paint.
Gaines hit 4-of-6 treys and paced the Lee scoring with 23 points. Barnes followed with 22 markers. Steve Bennett added 14 points and five rebounds. Chad Lee connected on 2-of-3 shots from behind the arc and had 10 points and four boards. Corey Billingsley added eight points, four rebounds and three assists. Duran Blue dished off six assists and scored five points.
SWU got 25 points and eight rebounds from Joyner. Lambic followed with 21 and nine. Guard Kenny Holmes canned four treys and totaled 16 points, plus adding six assists, while Alex Percival rounded out the double-figure scoring with 11.
LADY FLAMES 98,
LADY WARRIORS 44
From the opening tip the Lee women’s basketball team was raining down 3-pointers at Walker Arena en route to a 98-44 drubbing of Southern Wesleyan University on Thursday evening.
Leading the way was senior Julia Zimmeran who made her first six 3-pointers to guide the Lady Flames to a 56-point first half explosion. Zimmerman finished the game with 18 points and was 6-of-10 from behind the arc.
“Jules’ (Julia Zimmerman) shooting blistered Southern Wesleyan right from the start,” said coach Marty Rowe. “She came out on a fire and couldn’t miss early on.” As a team the Lady Flames shot a sizzling 62 percent (21-of-34) from the field in the opening stanza and hit 10-of-15 treys. For the game Lee shot 51 percent from the field and 48 percent from 3-point distance.
Hollie German continued to show why she leads the Southern States Athletic Conference kin scoring (20.9 ppg). The junior scored 20 points and was 4-of-8 from 3-point land while getting a chance to rest after the Lady Flames opened up their sizeable margin.
“We had a good effort once again tonight out of a lot of kids,” noted Rowe. “It was good to be able to give Hollie (German) some extra minutes off tonight with a couple of big conference games ahead of us. I thought our freshman played well tonight in extended action.”
One of those freshman was Christina Johnson who recorded the first double-double of her young career registering 10 points and 10 reboards. Jenna Adams tallied 15 points and added 11 boards, including six on the offensive end, to join Johnson with a double-double. Junior Myriah Iles rounded out the scoring with 11 markers. All totaled Lee had five players finish in double figure scoring.
Defensively Rowe’s club limited SWU to just 22 percent shooting (11-of-50) from the field. The Warriors didn’t have much luck from behind the arc either, hitting just three of their 13 attempts from downtown. The Lady Flames dominated the glass, outrebounding the Warriors 53-23.
Lee registered 24 assists as a team and had just 12 turnovers in the contest. Senior Brooke Hamby dished off nine of those assists to set the high-powered Lee offensive in motion. SWU managed just eight assists as a team and was guilty of 16 floor mistakes.
“It’s too early to tell if this team is peaking right now, we’ll know more when Karley (Miller) gets back, hopefully on Saturday. I actually think we played better against Coastal Georgia,” admitted Rowe. Lee handed Coastal Georgia a 13-point defeat Monday in Brunswick, Ga.
The victory puts the seventh-ranked Lady Flames at 21-2 on the year and 11-2 in SSAC play. With the loss Southern Wesleyan falls to 10-13 overall and 4-10 in conference play.
Lee will be back in action on Saturday evening as SSAC rival Emmanuel College (14-8, 8-6) comes calling. Tip time is set for 5 p.m. at Walker Arena.