In an early-season battle of ODAC heavyweights, Eastern Mennonite had the final say, staking a clutch 64-59 road win over Lynchburg College.
Led by eight fourth-quarter points from sophomore Chrissy Delawder (Broadway, Va./Broadway), EMU's basketball women controlled the final period, 23-17, to earn the victory in a matchup of the top two teams in the ODAC Preseason Poll. Even though the Royals had been picked as the preseason favorite in the league, the win raised a few eyebrows as EMU had a slow start to the year, hampered by late injuries and attrition, while Lynchburg was playing at home as a senior-laden team.
While they did not play a perfect game, in the end, Eastern Mennonite's women made clutch plays when it mattered to surprise the Hornets (6-2 / 1-1 ODAC).
The Royals (5-3 / 2-0 ODAC) tore out of the starting gates. Senior Myneshia Walker (Freeman, Va./Brunswick) scored the game's first five points, sparking her team to a 19-9 lead after 10 minutes. EMU continued to fluster Lynchburg's offense in the second period, with Walker's layup at the 1:46 mark giving the women the biggest lead of the game at 33-15.
The Hornets scored the final six points before halftime to gain a little momentum, but EMU's lead was still at 12 at the break.
In the third, the margin hovered around 10 or 12 points until Delawder's three ball made it 40-27 just over three minutes in. That's when LC finally gained traction with their height advantage. The Hornets pounded the ball inside and crashed the offensive boards, scoring six straight points. EMU got a single free throw, but Lynchburg kept coming and scored the final nine points of the period. Olivia DeFrancesco converted inside to give LC their first lead of the night at 42-41, capping a 15-1 run.
Although neither team scored over the final minute of the third period, the Royals seemed to benefit most from the mutual dry spell.
Then when Delawder opened the fourth with a three pointer, flipping EMU back in front, the turnaround was complete and the women regained all their confidence.
The Royals got loose inside for a pair of buckets, finishing a 7-0 start to the frame for a 48-42 lead. Lynchburg scored twice to trim the lead down to two points, but a pair of free throws from Lexi Deffenbaugh (Fishersville, Va./Wilson Memorial) again stemmed the tide.
After the home team came up empty on a two free throws and a second-chance three pointer, Lindsey Krisak (Alexandria, Va./Thomas A. Edison) came alive with her first points of the night on a huge triple. LC got a quick bucket, but Krisak struck again from outside to complete a key 8-2 spurt, bumping the lead back up to 56-48 with 4:14 to play.
The Hornets got just their second three pointer of the game to cut the margin to five, but Walker made a clutch drive to the hoop for a lay-in, bumping the margin back to 58-51.
The teams traded empty possessions to put the game clock under one minute, mounting the pressure on Lynchburg. After an offensive rebound, Kortni Pinion banked in a rainbow three pointer to trim EMU's lead to 58-54 with 41 seconds to go.
The Hornets were forced to foul and sent Delawder to the line with 22 seconds to go. She hit one-of-two to up the lead to five points and leave a slight crack in the door. However, LC's Caroline Naumann was whistled for a moving screen foul when the Hornets tried to inbound after a timeout, turning the ball over and essentially ending their chances.
Things got a little interesting when DeFrancesco cashed in a long three pointer to cut the lead to 60-59 with four seconds to go, but an intentional foul sealed it. Delawder hit two free throws with 2.8 showing, then added two more after another quick foul, producing the final five-point margin.
EMU made up for a 43-28 rebounding disparity by simply out-shooting their hosts. The Royals shot 45% from the floor compared to 37% for Lynchburg, and were 8-22 from three point range against just 4-19 for the Hornets.
Delawder connected on 3-of-6 from long range and tied her career high with 18 points. She also scored 18 in last year's regular season finale at Lynchburg. Walker made her first start in her third game back after an injury, and responded in a big way. She made all six of her shots from inside the arc and dumped in 16 points.
Jess Washington (Chesapeake, Va./Great Bridge) was good for eight points and a team high six rebounds. Krisak scored all seven of her points in the fourth period and added five rebounds.
Naumann led Lynchburg with 15 points and 14 rebounds before fouling out on the late moving screen. Alex Allen added 14 points, seven rebounds and two blocks off the bench.
Now winners of three straight, Eastern Mennonite gets a respite from games over exams before returning to the court on Sunday, Dec. 17. The Royals host Rosemont College that day at 2:00pm, before another break over Christmas leading into a Dec. 30 game at Ferrum.