Belmont Abbey junior forward Gabrielle Bethel recorded her second double double in three games with 16 points and 15 rebounds, while freshman Taylor Johnson broke a 61-61 tie with the final three of her 12 points with 1:37 to play to give the Crusaders the lead for good in a 66-63 home women's basketball victory over Lenoir-Rhyne this evening. Belmont Abbey picks up its first win of the year to move the record to 1-2, while the Bears drop to 0-1.
The win snaps a five game losing streak to the Bears as the last Crusader victory before tonight came in the 2000-2001 season.
The game was tied twice and the lead only changed hands one time as the Crusaders led for the majority of the contest but had to hold off a late fourth quarter charge from the Bears.
Belmont Abbey led by ten at the break, 37-27, but the Bears outscored the Crusaders 18-9 in the fourth quarter to set up a thrilling finish.
The fourth quarter began with the Abbey enjoying a 12 point lead at 57-45 but the Bears stormed out on a 7-0 run to begin the final period, slicing the Abbey's lead to five at 57-52 with 8:52 to play.
After both teams traded points that saw the Abbey's lead grow to five at 61-56, Lenoir-Rhyne knotted the contest at 61 with five straight points, coming on a three pointer from Shelly Harper followed by a Maddi Sudreth jumper after the Crusaders preceeding trip came up empty.
Tied at 61, Johnson gave the Abbey the lead for good, swishing a leaning three pointer from right corner, the last of her 12 points, which moved the Crusaders in front 64-61 with 1:37 to go.
With less than a minute to go, the Bears answered back, cutting the Abbey's lead down to one on a Jordan Hiatt jumper with 52 seconds to play.
On the following Crusaders inbounds pass, the Bears appeared to strip the ball away from Briana Grier, but Lenoir-Rhyne guard Justyce Swango stepped on the sideline, giving the ball back to the Crusaders.
Holding on by a point, Larisa Bishop was fouled with 26 seconds to play. She missed the first free throw but made the second, stretching the Abbey's lead to a pair at 65-63.
After a Bears timeout, Lenoir-Rhyne worked the ball inside, but forward Brooke Robinson took an extra step and was whistled for traveling, turning the ball back over to the Crusaders with 18 seconds left.
Forced to foul, Lenoir-Rhyne grabbed Grier with 17 seconds left. Grier made the first but missed the second and the Bears grabbed the rebound and called timeout. After the pause and using the new rule option of advancing the ball to the 28 foot mark on the offensive end, the Bears set up to attempt the tying shot.
After working the ball around the key, Hiatt, with no time left and from 21 feet, went up to attempt the shot, but Bethel swatted the ball away and the carom sailed right into the hands of Alex Busch at the buzzer as the Crusaders earned the victory.
Belmont Abbey shot 42 percent from the field as Bethel scored 16 points on seven of nine shooting. She added 15 rebounds, ten on the defensive glass, with three steals. She had 10 of her rebounds at the half.
Johnson added 12 points and six rebounds with Grier netting 11 with six assists. Busch and Taylor Gittings both added nine points. Belmont Abbey outrebounded the Bears 40-35.
Belmont Abbey is back in action Saturday with a road matchup at Shaw. That contest starts a four game road trip for the Crusaders, who will not be back in the Wheeler Center again until December 16.