The Royals turned on the defense in the second half to get past visiting Randolph-Macon Saturday afternoon, gritting out a 60-54 win. Eastern Mennonite allowed just 22 points after the intermission in improving to 8-4 overall and 3-1 in the ODAC.
Randolph-Macon fell to 9-3 and 2-2 in the conference.
The game featured a great matchup of EMU's quickness pitted against R-MC's All-ODAC center, Kelly Williams, who entered either first or second in the nation in points, rebounds and blocked shots. The Royals relied on their balanced scoring attack and frustrating defense to keep Williams 10 points below her season average.
Outside of their interior defense, Eastern Mennonite forced the rest of the Yellow Jackets to shoot a combined 26% (15-57) from the floor, including 3-19 from three-point range.
Senior Myneshia Walker (Freeman, Va./Brunswick) overcame early foul trouble to lead the Royals with 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting. Jess Washington (Chesapeake, Va./Great Bridge) struggled to escape the reach of the 6-foot 3-inch Williams on the offensive end, but still scored 11 points with a team high 13 rebounds and three steals.
The duo's gritty play helped seal the win down the stretch.
EMU overcame an early 14-7 deficit and took an 18-16 lead late in the first period. They maintained a small edge most of the second and held it at halftime as well, 34-32.
The Yellow Jackets tied the score on their first possession of the third, but Walker drilled a three and Washington converted inside twice to cap a 7-0 spurt in the span of 52 seconds. The sudden 41-34 lead equaled the largest of the game for either team.
That cushion held until the fourth, when Randolph-Macon scored the first five points to lock up the score at 46-46. Lexi Deffenbaugh (Fishersville, Va./Wilson Memorial) quickly answered with a jumper to keep EMU in front. The visitors tied the score again at 49-49 with 6:55 to play, but Walker buried a jumper on the women's next possession. Chrissy Delawder (Broadway, Va./Broadway) took a nice feed from Taylor Baltimore (Bristow, Va./Battlefield) to convert a huge three-point play with 4:56 to, bumping the lead back up to 54-49.
EMU would not score again for over two minutes; however, the defense limited the Yellow Jackets to just three points during the cold spell. Walker stepped up once more, this time grabbing an offensive board, resetting the offense, and hitting another jumper with 2:06 showing, putting the Royals' lead at 56-52.
The defense forced R-MC to launch a pair of missed threes, and Washington effectively put the game away when she got loose inside with 36 seconds left, making it 58-52. Williams scored with 24 ticks left to cut the margin to four, but the Royals wasted enough time off the clock and made 2-of-4 free throws to seal the six-point win.
Although EMU could not find their own offensive rhythm, shooting just 33% due in part to Williams' nine blocked shots, they made the difference by shooting 11-for-17 from the free throw line. Randolph-Macon shot 30% for the game and was just 9-23 from the stripe.
Aside from Walker and Washington's scoring, Lindsey Krisak (Alexandria, Va./Thomas A. Edison) chipped in eight and Baltimore added six with three assists. Deffenbaugh also had three helpers. Emily McCombs (Culpeper, Va./Eastern View) had six points, all in the first half, and Cheyenne Suamataia-Teo (Stafford, Va./Mount View) provided some solid minutes inside with six rebounds and five points.
Williams just missed a triple double as she added 22 rebounds and 15 points to her nine blocks. The center also had four assists. Charlotte Woods was a menace on the offensive glass and charted 16 points and 16 rebounds.
The win pushes the Royals into a five-way tie for first place in the ODAC standings. One of those other teams is Shenandoah University (7-6/3-1 ODAC), who hosts EMU on Wednesday night in Winchester. Game time is 7:00pm.