01/22/09 — Mount Olive women set to battle Barton

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Mount Olive women set to battle Barton

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on January 22, 2009 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- When choices become limited, you do the best with what you've got.

Injury-riddled Mount Olive College is learning that lesson in women's basketball this season. Minus three starters and one key reserve, the Trojans -- somehow -- have managed to stay near the top in Conference Carolinas action.

"We've taken some big blows with injuries and it's caused us to get back on our heels, but we've been able to regroup," said MOC head coach Wendy Lee. "We're just building back up. We had a lot of chemistry and transition play in the first five games (before the injuries).

"Now, we have to learn as we go and thankfully we're learning from wins."

Mount Olive (11-3 overall) carries a five-game win streak into today's home contest against league archrival Barton College. The Bulldogs (11-2) lead the conference at 8-1 and have won 18 of 23 meetings against the Trojans since 1998-99.

But Lee's recent teams have triumphed in three of the last four outings against Barton, including a semifinal-round victory in the Conference Carolinas tournament last March.

"Barton is solid and they are playing very well on both ends (of the court)," said Lee, who has a 5-14 career record against the Bulldogs. "We've got some things we need to do better to be able to beat Barton. We need to learn from this win (against Queens) as we'd learn from a loss.

"But, the harder you work, the luckier you get."

The Trojans have captured three consecutive come-from-behind victories during their current win streak. Lee says her team must consistently start games under control and handle the opponent's pressure early, especially against the Dogs.

Barton forces 22 turnovers a game and has one of the league's top-three scoring offenses at 84.3 points per outing. Four players average double figures in scoring -- guard Esty Flores (21.3 points), Sara Fleming (14.8), Jannetta Robinson (12.1) and Jamila Johnson (10.4).

Mount Olive will counter with senior guard Tomeka Prichard, who has recorded back-to-back 24-point performances (a career high) and JUCO transfer Jasmine Whitby. The former Louisburg College star ranks seventh in the league in scoring (14.6 points) and third in rebounding (6.9).

"Jasmine plays with the heart of a lion ... makes us so much better and makes everybody play harder," said Lee. "Tomeka has made some really big plays for us down the stretch. She's been crucial and is becoming a clutch player for us, which is what I like to see from the seniors."

The Trojans have gotten solid production from Shequanta McGee, Brittney Robich and Brittany Miller. All role players a year ago, each has stepped up and accepted their respective challenges while their teammates heal from injuries.

"It's amazing what you can do when you don't have a choice," said Prichard.