HICKORY – The McDowell Lady Titans took the best shot that the Saint Stephens Lady Indians could throw in Wednesday night’s Northwestern Conference makeup game.
The good thing is that the Lady Titans were able to remain standing.
With the help of three players scoring in double figures, McDowell got a 60-53 road win to remain in the hunt for the league’s regular-season championship.
McDowell improves to 13-6 overall on the season, 7-2 in Northwestern 3A/4A play, and remains tied for second with Watauga, two games away from conference leader Freedom.
Wednesday’s battle was far from easy against a 4-15 St Stephens team. The Lady Indians came out blazing from the perimeter, hitting six, first-half 3-pointers and eight for the game. That early start gave Saint a lead for most of the first half, reaching its apex at seven points (22-15) three minutes into the second quarter.
The margin remained at four going into the final minute of the half when McDowell broke through by forcing turnovers on three consecutive possessions and scoring each time to regain the lead for the second time of the night, 29-27 at the half.
The flurry began with two free throws from Candace Cooper with 46 seconds left in the half. Then, on the next possession, Alana Stephenson stole a pass near mid court and was fouled on the breakaway attempt. Stephenson squared up the score at 27 with 31 seconds left on a pair from the charity stripe.
Then, with Saint Stephens trying to hold the ball for the last shot of the half, Dezi Williams stole another pass near mid court and converted an easy layup with eight seconds left to thrust the Lady Titans back in front.
That sluggish end to the half for Saint Stephens really took away a lot of momentum built in the first half.
McDowell capitalized on the opportunity and built a working margin through the second half reaching as high as 11 points on a couple occasions, including a 50-39 score with 6:42 left in the game on a set of foul shots from Naliyah Boyce.
The Lady Indians had one more run in them over the next two minutes of game time, scoring eight straight points. Makayla Stafford’s jumper from the right wing made it 50-47 with 4:01 left, however they never got any closer.
McDowell’s Zoe Miller came up with a huge 3-pointer to jolt the lead back up to six. Then, Boyce connected on back-to-back scores. Her rebound and put-back got McDowell back into a double-figure advantage with 1:37 left, essentially putting the game away.
Boyce finished with a game-high 16 point, 11 rebounds and three steals. Williams (8 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 assists) finished with 15 points and Makaylah Chandler (4 rebounds) had 11 points.
Miller, Stephenson and Makenna Parkins (4 rebounds) chipped in five points apiece. Parkins’ night was cut short as the junior injured her ankle late in the third quarter and never returned. Candace Cooper rounded out the McDowell scoring with three points.
Saint Stephens also had three players in double figures with Stafford scoring 15 points. Alaysha McHenry added 13 points and freshman Elizabeth Sumpter had 12 points. The trio accounted for all eight 3-pointers made by the Lady Indians.
McDowell will be on the road Friday in a huge battle at Watauga.