Trojan women claim season-opening win
By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on November 16, 2008 2:00 AM
MOUNT OLIVE -- Coaches always have questions about their team heading into season-opening games.
Mount Olive College women's basketball coach Wendy Lee might have found some answers Saturday afternoon. But until she reviews the tape of the Trojans' 63-57 triumph over Virginia Union, Lee expects a few questions to remain.
"There are some things that you just can't see in practice," said Lee. "As a coach, I have to go back and look at the tape to better evaluate what we did well and what we can do better. Any win is a good win at this level.
"But to come out and win the opener, at home, that makes it even better for our team."
Virginia Union (0-1 overall) raced to an early 5-0 lead, but the Trojans quickly turned the tide. Senior guard Tomeka Prichard buried a 3-pointer and drained a layup to tie the game, which spearheaded an 11-1 run.
Prichard finished with a team-high 16 points.
"I was able to get some chances off of screens and ball reversals," said Prichard. "I just stepped up and made the shots when they were there."
The Panthers refused to go away and sank 10 free throws to trail 34-26 at halftime.
Mount Olive grabbed its largest lead, 53-39, behind stingy perimeter defense in the second half.
"I thought that was one thing we did particularly well," said Lee. "Not only did we limit their outside shooting, but we put more pressure on the ball."
With four minutes remaining the Trojans looked poised to put the contest away, but the Panthers refused to be silenced. Tonaey Smith deposited four of her game-high 24 points and Virginia Union made it a two-possession game in the final 60 seconds.
Lee knew her team's 58-53 lead wasn't safe.
"I never felt like we were ahead by enough," said Lee. "As a coach, there is never a lead that feels comfortable, but tonight especially we knew we were in a close game."
Jasmine Whitby sealed the win for Mount Olive with a three-point play with 38 seconds on the clock. The junior from Yorktown, Va., pumped in 11 points. Meaghan Vanderhorst was the only other Trojan in double figures with 12 points in her first game in two years.
Forward Alisa Jones added 10 rebounds and a career-high five blocked shots.
"We felt like depth would be a strong point for us," said Lee. "But you never really know what to expect until you see it in the first game."
Mount Olive (1-0) continues a four-game homestand Wednesday against Chowan University. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Kornegay Arena.
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