FRANKLIN SPRINGS, Ga. — Lee University head coach Marty Rowe took over the top spot in the Lady Flames basketball coaching win list at Southern States Athletic Conference foe Emmanuel College Saturday.
The 71-41 victory gives Rowe 219 wins as leader of the Lady Flames, surpassing Lee Athletics Hall of Fame Coach Jack Souther’s total of 218.
“I’m happy to be a part of the Lee tradition and to be able to add to it,” said Rowe. “He (Souther) is truly what Lee Athletics is all about. He’s the reason I have such a great job and our girls are taken care of so well. There’s no better guy to be around and he’s one of my heroes.”
After a record-setting performance, the Lee men just barely escaped the mouths of the Lions, fending off the home team for narrow a 54-52 victory.
Both Lee teams will return to Walker Arena for an SSAC matchup against Brewton-Parker College Thursday night. Coach Rowe will be honored for breaking Souther’s mark during halftime of the men’s contest.
The No. 5 ranked Lady Flames (23-1, 15-0 SSAC) started off slowly Saturday and led by one with 9:49 left in the first half. Lee would outscore Emmanuel (14-11, 9-5 SSAC) 18-3 over the next seven minutes to build 16-point lead. Following a short run by the Lady Lions, Lee went into the half with a 34-21 lead.
It was much of the same in the second half with Lee continuing to add to its lead. The Lady Flames outscored their hosts 37-20 in the final 20 minutes.
“This is the toughest we’ve ever had a team play here. Our attitude all day today was that we were going to keep playing like we were 10 points down,” added Rowe.
Mary Jackson scored 12 points in the first half on the way to tying her career-high of 18 points. Jackson hit 5-of-11 shots from the field, including 1-for-1 from beyond the arc, and was a perfect 7-for-7 at the charity stripe. The junior also grabbed seven rebounds.
Hollie German was 6-for-14 from the floor and threw in 15 markers. Kally Eldridge and Angela Spann rounded out Lee’s double-digit scoring with 12 points each. Eldridge recorded two rebounds, while Spann grabbed seven boards.
Myriah Iles joined Jackson and Spann with seven rebounds as Lee outrebounded Emmanuel 61-46. Lee also won the turnover battle, forcing Emmanuel to turn the ball over 18 times, while the Lady Flames were guilty of 16 floor mistakes.
As a team, Lee shot 35 percent (21-of-61) from the floor and 29 percent (5-for-17) from beyond the 3-point line. The Lady Flames went to the free-throw line 30 times and converted 24. Lee’s defense held Emmanuel to 17 percent (11-for-65) from the floor and allowed just one 3-pointer in six tries (17 percent). The Lady Lions made just 18-of-32 (56 percent) of their free throws.
Krystyn Young was the lone Lady Lion to hit double-digit scoring. Young finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.
Ashontti Lewis posted eight points and 12 rebounds; and Caniesha Bell added seven points and six rebounds in the loss.
“This is a big steppingstone for our team, as long as we know we still have some work to do,” admitted Rowe. “Hopefully, we’ll continue to improve and this team could be something special.”
Flames 54, Lions 52
The Flames went on a 9-0 run to close the first half and held off several furious comeback attempts, defeating host Emmanuel College, 54-52, Saturday evening.
Allowing the hosts just a dozen points in the first half, Lee took a 21-12 advantage into halftime after a defensive first frame.
The Flames then led by as many as 10 in the second half, with Emmanuel climbing back within one, 52-51, in the final minute.
Steve Bennett dropped in a shot with 44 seconds remaining, and the Flames defense held the Lions to a single free throw with less than one second remaining to secure the hard fought, two-point win.
“It was a defensive struggle. We did a great job at the end,” said Lee head coach Tommy Brown. “I thought defensively the first half might have been the best half we’ve ever played. To hold them to 12 points was pretty special.”
The 17th-ranked Flames move to 16-5 on the season, 10-4 in SSAC play, good for third in the East division. Emmanuel falls to 15-10 overall, 8-6 in conference play, now fourth in the division, two games behind Lee.
Despite the defensive battle, the Flames shot an outstanding 52 percent (23-of-44) from the field, 53 percent behind the arc. Alex Wells led the Lee squad with 14 points, including eight big points down the stretch in the second half. Ryan Westbrooks added 11 points, while Steve Bennett scored 10 and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
“Alex (Wells) is a lot like (former Flame Stephen) McClellan. He loves the moment and he wants the big shot,” added Brown.
Emmanuel was led by 14 points and nine rebounds by Patrick McCrary. Isaiah Tyus was the only other Lion player in double figures, adding 10 points. Overall, Emmanuel shot 37 percent from the field, while committing just 11 turnovers.
“Emmanuel just never quits. (Lions head coach) T.J. Rosene does a tremendous job here, he is a great coach,” said Brown.
The Flames won the rebounding battle, 32-27, but struggled handling the ball, committing 20 floor mistakes. The Flames were only given two free-throw attempts for the contest, missing both.
“I thought maybe we were making progress on our turnovers, but they were back today. We didn’t shoot a free throw until six minutes left in the game — that’s unbelievable,” said Brown in disappointment.