Tornado come back to escape Erskine with 64-61 win

DUE WEST, S.C. – It's not always how you start a game, but how you finish in conference play. The King University women's basketball team trailed for most of their Conference Carolinas opener at Erskine College, but they overcame an 11 point second half deficit to escape with a narrow 64-61 win.

Whitney Mitchell gave King (3-2, 1-0 CC) their first lead since 12:31 of the first half when she hit a jump shot giving the Tornado a 54-53 lead with just under five minutes remaining in the game. Bonnie Durrett followed with a jump shot to stretch the lead to 56-53 and force an Erskine timeout. However, the Flying Fleet (2-4, 0-1 CC) answered with a three-point basket to even the score.

Tia Keitt hit a free throw to give the lead back to King, but Erskine answered with a jumper to put the Flying Fleet back ahead. The lead didn't live long though as Durrett drilled a jump shot on King's next possession to regain the lead for the Tornado. Keitt hit two more free throws, and Sydney Harris hit one to give King a little breathing room as they led 62-58 with just 33 seconds left.

However, Kristin Giles hit a three-point basket with 20 seconds left, and Erskine took a timeout. Out of the timeout, the Flying Fleet got a steal, but missed a shot from the middle of the lane. Chelsea Bowling came up with the rebound and got fouled with one second remaining. The junior nailed both free throws to seal the 64-61 King victory.

The second half started with a Durrett jumper, but the Flying Fleet answered with eight straight points to extend the lead to 38-27. After both teams traded baskets, Reazyn DeMoss sparked a King run with a jump shot. Alley Sprouse followed with a jump shot, and Harris capped the 6-0 run with another jumper to pull King within 40-35 with just under 15 minutes left.

Erskine stretched their lead back to nine points at 44-35 before the Tornado went on another run. Whitney Mitchell started the spurt with a jump shot and Harris followed with a pair of free throws. Durrett pulled King within two at 46-44 with a pair of free throws, but the Flying Fleet answered with a bucket to extend the lead.

In the first half, Kelly Jackson and Durrett sparked the Tornado offense as the knocked down back-to-back jumpers to open the game. Durrett followed with a three-point basket to give King a 7-0 lead just over two minutes into the game.

However, the Flying Fleet answered with six straight points to get back into the contest. Harris stretched the King lead back to 10-6 with a free throw and jumper before Erskine continued their run. Ashley Mull nailed a triple to pull the Flying Fleet within one and Haleigh Spaulding converted a free throw to even the score at 10.

Rosa Powell made a three-point basket and Andrienne Bannerman hit a jumper to give Erskine a 15-10 lead with 11:22 left in the first half. Kristin Giles capped the 18-5 run with a jump shot that gave the Flying Fleet an 18-12 lead halfway through the first frame.

King later trailed 25-17, but the cut into the deficit late in the half as Harris made a jump shot with less than two minutes remaining to make the halftime score 30-25 in favor of Erskine. King shot 32.0 percent from the floor in the first half while Erskine shot just 27.8 percent from the floor in the frame.

Durrett led King with her fourth straight double-double, scoring 19 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Harris followed with 16 points while Harper snared eight rebounds.

The Tornado return home on Saturday when they host rival Lees-McRae College at the Student Center Complex. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.