23rd-Ranked Lions Chain Up Bulldogs 79-76
BARBOURVILLE, Ky. – It was a close Appalachian Athletic Conference clash between the No. 23 Bryan College women’s basketball team and host school Union College on Tuesday evening. The Lions clawed their way back at the end of the first quarter to take control of the lead 20-17, but the Bulldogs broke free for a 24-18 second period that saw Union regain the lead for a 41-38 edge at the break. Bryan answered back in the third quarter for a narrow 57-56 advantage entering the final frame. The game came down to the wire, but the Lions were able to chain up the Bulldogs 79-76 to improve to 6-1 overall and 5-0 in AAC play, growing their winning streak to five. Union lowered their overall mark to 3-3 and conference record to 2-3.
Helping bolster the Lions’ offense was the duo of Deandra Luna and Karli Combs. Luna went 8-for-16 in the outing for a season-high 20 points while also leading the team with eight rebounds, six assists, and three steals. Combs connected on 7-for-13, including 3-for-6 behind the arc, totaling 18 points. Combs has reached double-figures in the scoring column in six of Bryan’s seven contests. To’Nesha Allison was the only other Lion to produce double-digits, shooting 3-for-8 to tally 10 points. The trio of Tristan McClellan, Destiny Kassner, and Shayla Ludy collected seven points apiece, followed by Sarah Cain with five points, Tesa Johnson with three points, and Amber Levi with two points.
Despite the Bulldogs owning a higher shooting percentage for the game, 49.2 percent compared to the Lions’ 43.5 percent, Bryan made up for it on their shooting from outside and at the foul line. The Lions shot 43.8 percent from the perimeter while the Bulldogs posted a 31.6 percentage. Bryan also made 12-for-16 free throws compared to Union who sank 10-of-15. In the first half, the Lions were 6-for-8 from three-point territory. The Bulldogs slightly outrebounded the Lions 38-33 but committed 20 turnovers while Bryan surrendered just 13.
Union hurried out with five unanswered points to start the first quarter and eventually went up 9-2, but Bryan slowed the home team’s momentum with an 11-0 run that put the Lions on top 13-9. A trey from Combs and a pair of drained foul shots by Kassner kept some distance between them and the Bulldogs. Only four points were scored in the final three and a half minutes. Union scored down low near the two-minute mark to cut the deficit to one, 17-18, but McClellan was the last player to strike. With 30 seconds on the clock, the Bulldogs turned the ball over, and McClellan capitalized with a drive and finish in the lane for a 20-17 Lions’ lead.
Union started to find a rhythm at the beginning of the second quarter and managed to go back in front 29-23 after four minutes of play. At 4:46, the Bulldogs kept the six-point difference, 34-28, which was their largest lead of the night, but the Lions slowly chipped away at the margin. A second-chance opportunity taken advantage of by McClellan and an outside basket by Kassner in the last minute of the half helped Bryan stay within three points, 38-41, of Union at halftime.
The Lions quickly went on the attack in the third quarter, beginning with a score in the paint from Combs. One minute later, Combs was at it again, this time with a successful and-one play that put Bryan on top 43-41. Union would tie the count at 43’s, 47’s, and 53’s before regaining control with 50 seconds left in the quarter, 56-53. Back-to-back buckets from Ludy in the final moments catapulted the Lions ahead 57-56 with one period left to play.
Four lead changes and one tied point occurred through the first four minutes and twenty seconds of the fourth quarter, but a four-point swing midway through the stanza with two answers provided by the duo of Combs and Cain helped land Bryan with an advantage that wouldn’t be given back up for the duration of the game. After corralling an offensive board, Luna had a great finish underneath with 3:21 remaining that gave the Lions a 70-63 lead. With 2:42 to go, Union made it a two-point ballgame, but the Lions roared back for five point differences at 73-68 and 75-70. Another bucket by the Bulldogs that cut the score to three was trailed by a made free throw from McClellan to make it 76-72 with just over one minute left to play. It took over one minute for Union to score, bringing them within two points at 74-76, but all hopes were ended when Allison added three made foul shots even with the Bulldogs tacking on one more two-pointer. Bryan held on for the 79-76 decision.
Once the Lions return from Thanksgiving Break, they will play host to conference foe Montreat College (N.C.) on Wednesday, Nov. 28 at 5:30pm. The Cavaliers are currently 4-3 overall and 3-2 in the AAC while carrying a three-game winning streak.