Shannon McKever carried Lander during a crucial stretch of the second half and finished with a double-double, leading the Lady Bearcats to a 72-58 victory over Georgia Southwestern in the Peach Belt Conference opener for both teams Monday night in Greenwood, S.C.
Lander improved to 4-2 overall and 1-0 in the Peach Belt. The Lady Hurricanes fell to 5-2, 0-1.
Nadirah Gardner led Southwestern with 18 points, Brandi Burris scored 15 points, and Brittany Reynolds added team highs with seven rebounds, six assists and three steals.
McKever had game highs with 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Lady Bearcats, Mukia Myrick added 17 points, and Brittni Johnson and Ciara Lyons added 11 points apiece. Johnson added six assists and five steals.
Myrick helped Lander get off to a fast start, collecting two steals and three lay-ups as part of a 12-4 lead. The Lady Hurricanes got back into the game with an 8-2 run, pulling within 14-12 on Gardner's jumper at the 12:54 mark.
The Lady Bearcats responded with a 10-2 run of their own, building a 24-14 lead with 4:45 left in the first half on Myrick's lay-up off a long pass from Johnson, but Burris hit a 3-pointer and Gardner nailed a long 3 from near mid-court with the shot clock about to expire, pulling Southwestern within 24-20.
GSW closed within two in the final minute of the half before Johnson's jumper with three seconds left gave Lander a 30-26 halftime lead.
Myrick hitt a pair of 3-pointers to stake the Lady Bearcats to a 42-32 lead to start the second half. Jasmine Judge's 3-pointer upped the lead to 45-34 with 14 minutes left.
Georgia Southwestern had quickly closed a 12-point deficit to six, pulling within 51-45 on Krystal Thomas's three-point play at the 9:27 mark. The Lady Hurricanes twice closed within four points.
But McKever scored consecutive baskets and hit 3-of-4 free throws to restore Lander's lead back to 60-49 with five-plus minutes left. Keondra Barnes made two baskets and McKever scored again, pushing the advantage to 66-51.
Johnson helped the Lady Bearcats put the game away, making a steal and driving in for a lay-up with 1:43 to go and adding a 3-pointer as the shot clock was about to expire for a 72-55 lead with 43 seconds left.
For the game, Lander made 26 of 65 shots from the floor (40 percent), 16 of 26 free throws (62 percent), and four of 15 from behind the 3-point line (27 percent). The Lady 'Canes made 24 of 58 shots (41 percent), seven of eight free throws (88 percent), and three of 16 from beyond the arc (19 percent). GSW had a 41-38 edge on the boards. The Lady Bearcats forced 31 turnovers while committing 17.
PICTURED: Nadirah Gardner
PHOTO BY: Chris Fenn