Led by junior forward Dee Gray’s fourth double-double of the season, the FMU women’s basketball team prevailed on Saturday, Feb. 16, with a 58-51 Homecoming victory over Young Harris College.
In the absence of leading scorer Tiara Gause, Gray scored 16 points and brought down 12 rebounds leading the Patriots all the way as FMU scored the first points of the game and never looked back.
FMU Head Coach Kate Glusko said she was very proud of her team’s effort in the game.
“I think we came out strong,” Glusko said. “I was really proud of the effort and intensity we played with throughout out the game.”
Junior guard Lauren Smith led Young Harris (13-10, 7-9) with 13 points and five steals, while sophomore forward Shereese Williams posted her own double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
A jumper in the lane by Gray gave FMU its largest lead of the first half at 15-6 with 11:10 left before the break. The Mountain Lions cut the deficit to 18-17 with 5:44 on the clock, but Francis Marion would carry a 27-24 advantage into the locker room at intermission.
Early in the second half, a three-point play by Gray enabled FMU to stretch its advantage to 32-25, but Young Harris would trim the margin to 42-39 with 9:38 remaining in the contest on a made layup by freshman forward Erika Zurauskaite. Francis Marion answered with seven straight points to go ahead by 10 (49-39) with 7:59 left.
Though they trailed the whole game, the Mountain Lions exhibited a never-say-die attitude as they trimmed the lead to three (50-47) with three minutes remaining. But a basket by Gray and an inside hoop by junior forward Kim Roach allowed the Patriots to push the margin to seven, at 54-47.
A three-pointer by freshman guard Keta Robinette, however, sliced the deficit to four (55-51) with 51 seconds remaining. But the Mountain Lions’ scoring would cease there, as senior guard Kristen Dickerson hit two free throws with 23 seconds left and Gray knocked down another free throw with 15 seconds remaining to ensure the Patriot victory.
The bench also came up huge for the Patriots in the game. FMU sharpshooter and junior guard Erin Pinkett ended her shooting slump by knocking down all four of her three-point attempts in the first half, while Roach added 11 points and brought down five rebounds. Roach and Pinkett gave the lady Patriots a huge surge of momentum in the first half.
FMU forced 25 Young Harris turnovers and led 34-13 in points-off-turnovers. The Patriot bench significantly outplayed Young Harris’ bench, boasting a 27-11 advantage over the Mountain Lion reserves.
Kristen Dickerson said both she and her teammates knew they had to play with much intensity in such a big conference game.
“We needed to come out hard,” Dickerson said. “I think that was something that we struggled with early on in the season.”
FMU moves its overall record to 11-10 and holds onto fourth place in the Peach Belt Conference’s East Division standings with a 5-9 conference record. The victory put the Patriots in a position where they can control their own destiny as they prepare for more conference action. FMU will face division foes Lander and UNC Pembroke in critical rematches to end the season.