by Benny Benton
MISENHEIMER, N.C. – The Barton College women's basketball team let a 13-point first-half lead escape, but the Lady Bulldogs rallied to edge upset-minded Pfeiffer University, 59-57, in a Conference Carolinas battle Saturday evening.
Senior Kaila Lea and sophomore Tiffany Webster each scored 14 points for the Lady Bulldogs (13-12, 12-6), while senior Brianna Thomas pulled down a season-high 14 rebounds to go along with 12 points and four assists.
With the win, Barton moved into third place in the league standings, a half-game ahead of three other programs. Pfeiffer slipped to 5-18 overall and 4-15 in the conference. The Falcons are in a three-way tie for spots nine through 11 in the 12-team league.
Barton seemed to have things under control in the first half after consecutive layups by Caila Carter and a jumper by Thomas started a 14-3 run. Consecutive 3-pointers by Webster and Thomas capped the spurt, which turned a two-point game into a 13-point cushion at 28-15 with 7:15 left in the first half.
The Lady Bulldogs still led by nine at 33-24 late in the period, but Pfeiffer used two Carlisha Holivay free throws and a Safia Sheikh 3-pointer to close out the half on a 5-0 run and pull within four at the break, 33-29.
Back-to-back layups by Tatyana Jackson and Lea to start the second half put the Lady Bulldogs back up by eight and seemed to right the ship. However, at the 15:30 mark with the Falcons trailing by seven, Pfeiffer made five consecutive shots – capped by a 3-pointer from Sheikh - to go on a 9-0 run and take the lead, 44-42, with 13:32 to play.
From there, the two sides swapped the lead three times, with Barton moving back in front at 49-47 on a 3-pointer by Thomas. Pfeiffer tied the contest at 49-all on a jumper by Vivian Doerr with 6:50 remaining, but Lea drained a 3-pointer on BC's next possession and the Lady Bulldogs never trailed again.
Pfeiffer did trim the deficit to two points on three different occasions, the last time on a free throw by Brittney Washington with 51 seconds to play. Webster was called for an offensive foul on the ensuing Barton possession, giving the Falcons a final chance to tie or win, but Brianna Jones' jumper with five seconds left missed its mark.
The Lady Bulldogs made three of their last five attempts from the field and three of four attempts from the line over the game's final seven minutes in preserving their lead, but didn't score in the final two and a half minutes and turned the ball over twice on offensive fouls in the final two minutes.
Both teams had 40 rebounds and 18 assists, and both sides had nearly identical shooting numbers as well. Barton made 40.4 percent from the field, 40.0 percent from 3-point range and 63.6 percent from the line. Pfeiffer shot 38.9 percent from the field, 40.0 percent from 3-point range and 64.7 percent from the charity stripe.
Barton, which has won four straight and 10 of its last 13 games, will attempt to build on those numbers when they visit Converse College on Monday for a 6 p.m. matchup.