by Benny Benton
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The Barton College women's basketball team let a seven-point lead with 2:33 to play get away in falling to last-place Converse College, 66-61, in a Conference Carolinas matchup Monday afternoon.
The Lady Bulldogs (13-13, 12-7) overcame a nine-point second-half lead by the Valkyries (4-19, 3-16) to surge ahead by as many as eight points with 3:34 to go.
However, a layup by Shatisha Dukes that put Barton up 60-53 with 2:33 remaining proved to be the Lady Bulldogs' final field goal of the game. BC missed its last three shots from the floor and turned the ball over three times in the final 1:04.
Barton's last point came on a Brianna Thomas free throw with 59 seconds left which tied the game at 61-all. Erin Horne scored on a layup 15 seconds later off an assist from Ashley Salgado to put Converse in front. The Valkyries then forced a BC turnover and Jakyra Washington recorded a three-point play with seven seconds to go to put away the win.
The victory was the first for Converse over the Lady Bulldogs in 13 meetings since the Valkyries began league play in 2008-09.
Margo Dill led Converse with 18 points and Washington added 12. Hone chipped in 11 points and Yashee Johnson pulled down 10 rebounds for the winners.
Barton senior Kaila Lea poured in a game-high 25 points in a losing cause. Lea was 8-of-11 from the floor, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range, and made 5-of-6 from the line. Senior Brianna Thomas added 13 points and 11 rebounds for her sixth double-double of the year, and sophomore Tiffany Webster contributed 10 points.
As a whole, the Lady Bulldogs struggled shooting the basketball, making just 34.9 percent from the field, and just 26.9 percent when Lea's numbers are excluded.
Converse also shot just 39 percent from the floor, but excelled at the free throw line by making 18-of-22 (.818), including 10-of-11 (.909) in the second half.
With the score tied at 14-all, Barton used a jumper by Caila Carter, a free throw by Deja Jeanpierre and a Lea layup (her ninth point of the half) to make up a five-point run that put the Lady Bulldogs up 19-14 with 10:54 left in the first half.
The Valkyries slowly regained the lead and scored the last four points of the half to take 30-25 advantage into halftime. Barton quickly cut the deficit to one on a 3-pointer by Lea at the 18:32 mark, but consecutive 3-pointers by Washington and Jenna White put Converse back up by seven at 36-29 with 17:09 left.
A layup by Dill gave the Valkyries their biggest lead of the night, 40-31, with 14:46 remaining, but Lea scored the game's next six points and Webster added a jumper as Barton went on an 8-0 run to pull back within a point at 40-39 with 12:01 to play.
Barton took its first lead of the second half on a three-point play by Thomas with 9:16 left, and layups by Thomas, Dukes and Tatyana Jackson quickly put the Lady Bulldogs up by seven at 51-44 with 7:27 to go. Converse cut the deficit to three, but BC used a jumper by Dukes and another 3-pointer by Lea to claim an eight-point cushion with 3:34 to go.
The Lady Bulldogs had let a 13-point lead get away on Saturday against Pfeiffer University, only to recover for a two-point win. However, this time Converse rallied and kept Barton down on the mat.
The loss dropped Barton into a four-way tie for third place in the league standings. The Lady Bulldogs will host one of the other teams in the tie, Erskine College, on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. before welcoming league leader and nationally-ranked Limestone College to the Dog House on Saturday night.