But the challenge will not be easy. The 13th-ranked Lady Cats (10-1) bring an impressive eight-game winning streak to Cleveland. It has been well over a month since Bethel dropped a 73-68 decision to St. Catharine (Ky.). It also will be only the second road game of the year for the TranSouth Conference club.
Going against the sixth-ranked Lady Flames (7-1) will be nothing new for coach Chris Nelson, who is in his seventh season at Bethel. The Lady Cats have battled NAIA powerhouses Union University and Freed-Hardeman for years. Union has moved on to the NCAA Division II ranks, but Freed is ranked No. 2 in the recent NAIA poll. In fact, Bethel holds a 5-2 edge in previous meetings with the Lady Flames, who were members of the TranSouth before moving to the SSAC.
Lee senior point guard Brooke Hamby suffered a shoulder injury in last Saturday’s win over Lindsey Wilson. “She is still quite sore, but we expect her to be able to play on Thursday,” said coach Rowe. “Basically, it’s pain tolerance at this point and she’s a tough girl so we think she’ll be back in there for us. Officially it was called a ‘stinger’ and she’s responding really well to treatment.”
Rowe noted, “Bethel is really good and an extremely tough matchup for us in a couple of spots. They are similar to us in the fact that they attack off the dribble but seem to get to the foul line more than we do. We’ll have to do a great job of not getting beat off the dribble and keeping them out of the paint.”
Trips to the charity stripe verify what Rowe is concerned about. The Lady Flames have gone to the line 132 times this season and converted 96. On the other hand their opponents have attempted 222 freebies and canned 142. Bethel has been awarded 240 freebies and connected on 171, almost doubling Lee’s total.
“Bethel is the type of team that we’ll have to compete against in postseason so we’re really excited about the opportunity to play them,” added Rowe. “It should be a great game to watch between two quality basketball teams.”
The Lady Cats have three player averaging double-figure scoring. Jackliann Street (14.0), Alisha Gentry (13.8) and Jasmine Taylor (12.0) pace the balanced attack. Hollie German (20.67) is the NAIA’s fifth-leading scorer. Jenna Adams (12.7) is the only other Lady Flames in double figures. Adams has three straight double-double (points and rebounds) games and four for the season. Both teams are blessed with depth. Bethel has 11 players who average double-figure minutes and Lee has nine.