Livingstone women use late push to top Benedict, 86-80

Published 7:40 pm Saturday, December 9, 2017

By Dennis Davidson

SALISBURY — Trailing Benedict by one point with four minutes remaining, Livingstone picked a great time to go on a 12-0 run.

The spurt enabled the Blue Bears to proceed on to an 86-80 victory in a back-and-forth and foul-marred women’s college basketball game, Saturday afternoon at New Trent Gym.

Both teams were challenged to get into any kind of flow, due to 60 fouls being whistled by the three game officials. The two squads combined to shoot 76 free throws, 30 of which were missed.

All the whistles had most everybody agitated throughout the game, leading to four technicals fouls, as star players sat out a lot of minutes with foul trouble.

Livingstone junior guard Zena Lovette, averaging 27 points per game, played just 19 minutes. She did, however, manage to play the entire fourth quarter with four fouls and was once again a key to the win with 18 points.

Lovette scored the last five points in the run, giving the Blue Bears (5-4) an 82-71 lead with just 1:39 left.

The Tigers didn’t quit at that point, and behind 6-2 freshman Ay’Anna Bey, Bendict (2-7) cut the margin to 82-80 at the 26-second mark. But Lovette and fellow guard Imani Payne sank two foul shots each in the final seconds to secure the win.

Livingstone coach Tiffany Silver said that while the foul-fest was frustrating to manage, it did show her team’s depth — a far cry from last season when the Blue Bears had just seven players.

“It was a measure of who we are and what we do with what we have on the court at any given time,” said Silver. “To win with Zena and others off the court that much … it was huge. We didn’t have Zena in two ugly losses to start the season and we’ve had people in foul trouble in every single game and people have had to step up. You don’t know when your number is going to be called, but you’ve got to be ready for situations like this.”

With Lovette and fellow starting guard Asia Green sitting out most of the third period, Kedra Bradley and Kyala Searcy stepped up big time.

Bradley, a junior guard, scored seven of her 11 points when Benedict held the lead late in the third quarter and early in the final period.

“I just saw an opportunity to step up and help the team,” said Bradley, who hails from Danville, Va. “I wanted to play my hardest and limit my fouls. We know where we want to be as a team, so we’ve just got to get out there and do it.”

Meanwhile, Searcy, a junior 5-10 forward, was big with nine of her 17 points in the second half. Searcy, who also led the way with eight rebounds, scores in the post but is a good ballhander who will fire a jumper if she’s left open. Her 3-pointer from the top of the key with 3:52 remaining started the 12-0 run.

“I pretty much play inside and out,” said Searcy, who played for the Blue Bears in 2015-16 but sat out last season. “I’m not bragging on myself, but I am a two-way player. That’s what the coaches expect from me and I have to take those open 3-pointers, and hopefully, make them.

“Last game, I played pretty bad (96-79 loss at Lenoir-Rhyne), so coach and I had a conversation and I better understand my role now,” continued Searcy. “I’m the person that keeps everybody up and doing the right things — be a leader on the floor, because I have experience and I can’t expect anyone else to do my job.”

While Livingstone shot just 37 percent from the floor (27-of-73) and 61 percent from the foul line (25-of-41), it committed just 13 turnovers, compared to 34 for Benedict — a huge difference in the contest, making up for the Tigers’ 50-40 rebound advantage.

“We did take better care of the ball and also had 20 assists, which was a goal, going into the game, to make that extra pass,” added Silver.

Following Lovette and Searcy in the Livingstone scoring were Green with 13 (12 in first half), Bradley’s 11 and 10 from Payne.

Bey led the Tigers with a double-double — 25 points and 15 rebounds. Ayanna Armstead added 17 points.

NOTES: Livingstone returns to action next Saturday, hosting perennial CIAA power Virginia Union in its first conference action. … Silver added that while others stepped in for Lovette, the coach would, obviously, prefer her star scorer to avoid fouls. “Zena never needs to come off the court … if she’s not in foul trouble, then she’s on the floor. She’s capable of 30 to 35 points any night,” said Silver.

BENEDICT (80) — Armstead 17, Clements, Luke 11, Bey 25, Stephens, Jones 1, Baker, White 2, Stinnette, Smith 4, Bostick, Owens 15, Pettway 5.

LIVINGSTONE (86) — Green 13, Bradley 11, Lovette 18, Searcy 17, Payne 10, Perkins 4, Robinson 2, Bland 6, Deberry, Porter 2, Terry 3.

Benedict            22   13   22   23 — 80

Livingstone       17   19   25   25 — 86