The Lady Flames, ranked seventh in the NAIA pre-season poll, outscored visiting Bryan College 45-30 in the second half and went on to claim a season-opening 73-48 victory, while the 12th-ranked Flames posted their third win of the young season with a 93-71 thrashing of Bluefield (Va.) College.
Coach Marty Rowe’s Lady Flames will return to action this afternoon with its second exhibition game against a NCAA Division I power at Western Kentucky University. The Lee ladies had a strong showing Thursday evening against the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.
The young Lady Flames got off to a slow start Saturday and fell behind the fired-up Bryan Lady Lions in the early going. After a couple of timeouts, Rowe regrouped his squad and they used a strong defense to grab a low-scoring 28-18 lead at the break.
“It’s going to be this way quite a bit, especially early in the season,” said the Lee coach. “We are a very young basketball team and seven freshmen will be seeing a lot of playing time. I had to take a little something for my stomach at the half, but our girls played much better in the second 20 minutes.”
No Lady Flame played more than 26 minutes. Senior Brooke McKinnon broke away from a slow start and tallied 14 points to tie freshman Karley Miller for top scoring honors. McKinnon also dished off a team-leading five assists.
“Our young players were really looking to Brooke in the early going,” stressed Rowe. “I think that actually put a little more pressure on her. She’s probably going to have to carry that extra burden until our freshmen get more experience under their belts.”
Angela Spann totaled eight points in the victory, while freshman Madison Lee and junior transfer Madeleine Doyle added seven points apiece.
Rachael Lockhart, a red-shirt freshman, came off the bench to lead the team in rebounding with eight. Miller had six rebounds, while former Polk County standout Hollie German grabbed five as the Lady Flames out-rebounded the visitors 43-31.
Former Walker Valley High School standout Anna Thomas was Bryan’s leading scorer with an impressive 18-point performance. Sara Barnett countered with 13 points and five assists.
The Lady Flames shot 42 percent from the field and an even better 45 percent from 3-point range (4-of-12). Julia Zimmerman came off the bench to knock down two of the treys. Bryan connected on 36 percent of their shots but made just 9-of-16 free throws.
Both teams were hampered by turnovers. Bryan turned the basketball over 20 times and Lee committed 16 floor mistakes. A key difference was 13 assists by the Lady Flames to only seven for the Lady Lions.
In the men’s game, the Flames came out firing early on, outscoring the Rams 47-37 in the first 20 minutes.
The second frame was much of the same, as Lee continued their offensive success, outscoring Bluefield by 12 in the second half to seal the convincing victory.
“It’s always good to win on homecoming,” said coach Tommy Brown. “Overall, we got a solid performance from a lot of different individuals today. Bluefield is an athletic team, but I think our athletes took over in the second half. It would be hard to single out any individual. I would call this a true team victory against a good basketball team.”
“Starting the season with victories over Bryan, Temple and Bluefield is about all our staff could ask for,” he added. “Things are sure to get a lot tougher next week when we travel to Freed-Hardeman for their homecoming game.”
Senior Jerel Blocker led four Flames in double-figure with 18 points, to go with five rebounds.
Johnny Godette and Rico Cunningham also turned in solid all-around performances. Godette earned a season-high 16 points, while Cunningham led the Flames with nine rebounds, in addition to his 13 points.
Stephen McClellan was the only other Lee player in double digits, scoring 12 points on three of seven shooting.
For Bluefield, Carlton Shumake led all scorers with 21 points. Borgia M’bala had the hot hand for the Rams, shooting 67 percent from behind the arc, on his way to an 18-point performance.
The Flames continued their offensive accuracy, making 52 percent of their shots, while holding Bluefield to just 32 percent from the field. Lee has shot over 50 percent in all three contests thus far this season.
Coach Tommy Brown used 14 different players in the win, playing every active Flame. Junior Roy McFadgon came up big off the bench, contributing seven points and eight rebounds. McFadgon also played defensive stopper, earning two blocks in his 22 minutes of time on the floor.
At halftime, the Lee athletic department honored the four newest members of the Lee Athletic Hall of Fame. Former Women’s Cross Country runner and assistant coach, Emily Cleveland (2001-2005), joined Ed “Dizzy” Ford (Men’s Basketball, 1966-1969), Courtney Hindman-Glass (Women’s Basketball, 2000-2004), and this year’s Meritorious Award Winner, Phil Cook, as this year’s inductees.