With 10 seconds left to play the Lady Bisons held a 56-54 lead over North Florida after freshman guard Anna Bowers sank two free throws.
North Florida came down court and found Jennifer Bowen, their best 3-point shooter in the corner. A bad pass threw off her shot as the final second ticked off the clock preserving the win for the Lady Bisons Saturday afternoon at Allen Arena. This season they had lost four games by two points or fewer, including a 52-51 decision at North Florida Dec. 4.
“It was back and forth in the second half,” said Lipscomb coach Frank Bennett. “Anna did a great job of making those free throws.
“We just needed the one stop. Bowen made the shot down there, but this time we kept her in front of us and were able to contest it. We were hoping the law of averages was going to catch up with us.”
The fact the Lady Bisons were in a position to win was a credit to their perseverance.
After starting out quickly the Lady Bisons stalled at nine points as North Florida went on a 13-0 run. Down 21-9 after that run, the Lady Bisons started chipping away at the gap.
“I thought we started off great in everything except putting the ball in the basket,” said Bennett. “We weren’t finishing, but we were getting good looks, getting defensive stops and moving the ball well.
“Once we got to nine we got stuck there. We got into a bad pattern. Nothing was going right for us. We were not finishing. We had a few turnovers. We were giving them some easy shots on transitions.”
With 46 seconds left in the first half senior forward Jilian Partin connected on a 3-pointer to trim North Florida’s lead to 32-27. Sophomore guard Jenna Bartsokas hit the second of two free throw attempts to trim the intermission deficit to four points, 32-28.
In the second half the Lady Bisons pulled within one, 33-32, when freshman center Clair Waggener hit a jumper. But North Florida went on an 8-0 run.
“We got enough of the lead cut down before halftime to give us a little bit of momentum. I have to give our players credit for battling in the second half. They are one of the better rebounding teams and we had to battle them on the boards.”
However, the Lady Bisons rallied once again. A lay-up by Bartsokas pulled the Lady Bisons within two points, 41-39, with 12:12 left to play. Waggener tied the game on a lay-up at 11:40.
The game was back and forth the rest of the way. The Lady Bison led by four with 2:48 remaining as Bowers hit a pair of free throws. A lay-up by North Florida’s Brittany Kirkland tied the game 53-53 with 1:03 left to play. North Florida would tie the game at 54-54 with 22 seconds on the clock, setting the stage of Bowers’ game-winning free throws.
“North Florida is ranked second in the conference in scoring defense,” said Bennett. “They are hard to score on. But we found ways to get shots.”
Partin, playing a career-high 37 minutes, led the Lady Bisons with 18 points. She also grabbed 11 rebounds for the fourth time this season. It was also the fifth time this season, and the second game in a row, that Partin has recorded a double-double.
Sophomore forward Cree Nix hauled down a career-high and game-high 15 rebounds.
“Cree was really unbelievable on the boards,” said Bennett. “That was a huge factor for us. She and Jilian were going all out to get to the boards.”
Also in double figures for the Lady Bisons was Bartsokas with 16.
“Jilian was seeing when she could get to the basket and when she couldn’t,” said Bennett. “She made good decisions.
“We would like to get more balance than what we had. But it was a team effort.”
Kirkland scored 14 points. She was the only North Florida player in double figures in scoring. Bowen grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds.
Partin, center Katie Rollins and forward Miriam McAlister were honored on “Senior Day”. It was also alumni day for the Lady Bisons basketball team. A reception for all of the players, past and present, was held in the Hall of Fame room after the game.
The Lady Bisons are 6-23 overall, 4-16 in the A-Sun. North Florida fell to 8-20, 7-12 in the conference.
The next action for the Lady Bisons will be Wednesday night at 6 when they face Jacksonville in the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament at Allen Arena. Tournament passes, priced at $50, are available at www.Ticketmaster.com.