LYNCHBURG, Va. – After several close games that ended in heartbreak, the Randolph College women's basketball team celebrated a hard fought 68-60 victory over Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) rival Eastern Mennonite University on Saturday afternoon in the RAD.
"On Wednesday we had several opportunities to tie or go ahead from the free throw line and the team knew they had to fix that," stated head coach Andrea Kendall. "They were in the gym – before and after practice – working on their free throws and it paid off today. DJ and Yanessa hit clutch free throws and, as a team, we 77.8 percent, which played a vital role in our success today."
Despite being down, 13-2, in the opening period, the WildCats pushed a 10-2 run to close the gap to 15-12 at the start of the second quarter. Although the Royals continued to maintain the lead, Randolph remained close behind, making it a seven point deficit (35-28) at the halfway mark.
Coming out of the break, the WildCats quickly trimmed the deficit to 35-33 with consecutive baskets made by Dominique Jackson (Greensboro, N.C./Ben L. Smith) before Kalyn Banks (Clinton, Md./From the Heart Christian School) converted a pair of free throws to even the score to 37-all with 6:11 remaining in the third period. Randolph briefly took the lead moments later but a three-pointer by the Royals placed them back ahead by one point (40-39). However, it would be short lived as 6-0 push by the WildCats put them back in the lead with a 45-40 advantage before securing a 47-42 margin heading into the final period.
The Royals trailed close behind as the fourth quarter was underway, but Randolph managed to keep Eastern Mennonite at bay as time ran down on the clock. The Royals would slice the deficit to 65-60 but it would be the closest they would get as the WildCats sealed the final 68-60 tally thanks to a pair of free throws by Jackson.
"Words could never describe how proud I am of our team today. To come out and start the game down 13-2 and then down by seven at the half and fight back to win such a huge ODAC game is incredible," said Kendall. "We may be a young team but those kids played with confidence, intense grit and resilience.
"Amber Garrett, while not one to get a lot of attention on the stat sheet, played a phenomenal game on both sides of the court with zero turnovers in 33 minutes and locking down anyone she guarded," continued Kendall. "Biscuit [Elizabeth Ellen] hit some big shots for us at the exact moment we needed them the most. Corrinne Anderson hit two big threes for us and Kalyn showed up for us today in the paint and really had an overall impressive game."
The win marks the first over the Royals since the 1999-00 season where Randolph defeated Eastern Mennonite, 67-62.
Randolph finished the day shooting 43.1 (25-of-58) percent from the field and 77.8 (14-of-18) percent from the line while recording 30 points in the paint, 14 bench points and converted 21 points off turnovers.
Jackson and Banks each finished with 16 points apiece to pace the WildCats with Jackson making 4-of-8 shots from the field while Banks connected 7-of-19 shots from the floor and collected four steals. Yanessa Cabrera (Manassas, Va./Stonewall Jackson) also recorded four steals and posted a team-high nine rebounds while dishing out six assists.
"We continue to get better and grow every day," spoke Kendall. "This team takes practice seriously and I am so happy for them to experience a positive result from all of their hard work. They truly deserve this one."
Randolph improves to 4-11, 2-6 ODAC and will look to add to its win column on Wednesday, Jan. 17 when the WildCats travel to Roanoke College for a 7 p.m. ODAC contest.