Virginia Wesleyan pins first loss of season on Eastern Mennonite
VIRGINIA BEACH -- Kerri-Leanne Taylor is playing intercollegiate basketball a long way from home.
But, it hasn't hampered the efforts of the Virginia Wesleyan College rookie from Stockport, England, who has played in every game to date for her team, including Saturday when she knocked down a huge triple to help send the Marlins to an impressive 62-57 victory over previously undefeated Eastern Mennonite University.
Playing on the home court at the Jane P. Batten Student Center,Taylor (The Hill School, Pa.), nailed a triple off an assist from rookie Sarah Seipp (Gaithersburg, Md./Gaithersburg) to give VWC a 41-39 lead with 8:44 remaining in the showdown between early-season leaders in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference.
The Marlins never trailed thereafter. Riaven Patterson (Pulaski, Va./Pulaski) hit a jumper to tie the score at 41 seconds later for EMU (6-1, 4-1), but VWC senior Jocelyn Spencer (Newport News, Va./Hampton Roads Academy) knocked the Royals back into a deficit when she scored on a rebound shot and finished it off with free throw for a traditional three-point play and a 44-41 lead.
A fired-up Virginia Wesleyan (6-1, 4-0) squad got the ball back seconds later when rookie Brittany Glasco (Fredericksburg, Va./Massaponax) stole the ball and got things in gear for a jumper from sophomore Katie Tassa (Bristow, Va./Manassas Osbourn Park). That score, set up by an assist by sophomore Symonne Newsome (Reistertown, Md./St. Paul's School for Girls), gave VWC a 46-41 advantage with 6:48 remaining to be played.
It was all part of a 13-4 Virginia Wesleyan scoring run that started after Patterson triple and jumper by sophomore Kala Yoders (Myerstown, Pa./Eastern Lebanon County) gave Eastern Mennonite a 37-33 lead. But, stepped up defensive pressure from Virginia Wesleyan helped force the Royals into eight turnovers in the next seven minutes, and the Marlins capitalized.
Eastern Mennonite closed within a 50-48 score on a triple from sophomore Stephanie Rheinheimer (Manheim, Pa./Lancaster Mennonite) with 3:24 on the clock, but VWC moved forward. Marlin rookie Nancy Kelly (Phoenix, Md./Dulaney) hit a timely jumper that started a decisive 8-1 scoring run in the final three minutes. A Kelly layup off a Glasco assist gave VWC its largest lead of the game at 58-49 with 59 seconds remaining.
It was an intense game from the start, as both teams posted six-point leads in the first half. Sophomore Bianca Ygarza (Conestoga, Pa./Penn Manor) and Yoders carried EMU through the half, which ended with rookie Nora Osei (Springfield, Va./West Springfield) scoring at the buzzer to give the Royals a 27-21 halftime lead.
Junior Rachael Miller (Sterling, Va./Park View) hit a triple early in the second half to pull the Marlins within three points and senior Shawnee Lewis (Alexandria, Va./Thomas A. Edison) scored five consecutive points to push VWC into a 29-28 lead and set the tone for the remainder of the contest.
It turned out to be an important win for Virginia Wesleyan, which played the game without 6-foot-1 Kristen Blalock (Suffolk, Va./Portsmouth Christian), who was on the bench nursing an injury. Her absence presented a challenge for the Marlins, who responded with season-high scoring efforts by Lewis (15), Kelly (8), Taylor (7), and Newsome (6). Lewis also tied a season-best with eight rebounds and five assists. Glasco came through with eight rebounds and three assists, tying her season-highs in both areas.
Yoders, who kept EMU in the game with 13 first-half points, finished with 18 overall. Ygarza added 12 points and Rheinheimer tallied 11, hitting three triples in the final 3:24 of the game.
Virginia Wesleyan returns to competition on Sunday, Dec. 18, and Monday, Dec. 19, in the Cruzin Classic in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. The Marlins face the Valiants (3-5) of Manhattanville College (N.Y.) on Sunday at 10 a.m. and the Eagles (5-3) of Messiah College (Pa.) on Monday at 9 a.m.