In a battle of diminution, the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore defeated the Lady Rattlers 68-71 in an overtime thriller Saturday at Gaither Gymnasium.
A combined 52 turnovers, 35 percent shooting from the field and 57 percent shooting from the free throw line made it an interesting game.
With 45 seconds remaining, Maryland-Eastern Shore’s Ashley Chase, and the Lady Rattler’s Candace Crawford had to be separated after exchanging words. When cooler heads were beginning to prevail, Maryland-Eastern Shore’s Erica Bennett ignited the crowd and Lady Rattlers by shoving Crawford and earning an early shower via ejection.
“Coming in, I had a lot of energy (because it was) my last time playing in front of my family,” said Bennett, who is from Panama City.
Bennett said she was emotional heading into the game saying that she would, “do anything to sacrifice and win the game.”
Kristi Veltkamp, the only player to make 50 percent of her shots, led the Hawks with 14 in the second half and overtime. Veltkamp, who finished with 16 points, made six of her nine attempts from the field.
Contrary to her steady play, toward the end of the game, Veltkamp, along with the other four Lady Hawk starters, was benched with 16:46 remaining in the first half after surrendering five turnovers and an 8-0 deficit.
“We’re not great, but we’re pretty solid from top to bottom,” said first-year Maryland-Eastern Shore Head Coach Fred Batchelor.
Unlike their balanced opponents, the Lady Rattlers were led by senior forwards Quidara Russell and Ariel Towns, who both had 23 points in a losing effort. Russell and Towns were the only Lady Rattlers to score in double figures.
“We played so poorly (it is) really frustrating for our confidence,” Lady Rattler Head Coach Debra Clark said. “They beat us in every phase of the game.”
Although the Lady Rattlers held their opponents to 37 percent shooting, defensive breakdowns allowed the Hawks 28 second-chance points.
“We have to get ourselves mentally prepared,” Clark said. “You have to make plays, you have to make stops.”
After a back-and-forth first half, in which the game was tied once, and the lead changed hands twice, the Lady Rattlers used a 13-0 run to head into halftime leading by three, 29-26.
A pair of free throws from Toni Kennedy gave the Hawks their first lead in nearly 10 minutes into the second half. The Hawks parlayed a string of Lady Rattler turnovers into an 11-0 run to begin the second half.
Following a timeout, the Lady Rattlers regained their composure and the lead at 38-37 off a floater from senior Dierdre Tyus with 15:03 remaining.
Both teams traded baskets for the next half-dozen minutes before Veltkamp, Kennedy and Ashley Chase took over and gave the Hawks their biggest lead of the game at 59-51.
On the shoulders of Russell and Towns, the Lady Rattlers whittled an eight-point lead down to two with less than two minutes to play.
As the 543 people in attendance were beginning to get behind the Lady Rattlers Kennedy nailed a 3-pointer as time expired on the shot clock to give the Lady Hawks a 62-57 lead with just over a minute to play.
The Lady Rattlers cut the lead to three before Charon Williams made her first and only shot of the game on an off-balance 3-pointer off the backboard with 17.3 seconds remaining to tie the game at 64.
“That was a set play,” Clark said.
“She (Williams) did what she was supposed to do.”
Both teams had a chance to win the game in regulation, but were unable to make the most of their opportunities.
In the overtime session Veltkamp, Kennedy and Chase led the Hawks, as they did not trail in the five-minute session, outscoring FAMU 7-4.
The loss drops the Lady Rattlers overall record to 4-8 and 2-2 in conference play, they have yet to win consecutive games on the season.
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