BELMONT, NC - The Belmont Abbey women's basketball team won a thrilling 85-81 contest against the Emmanuel Lions to start 2017. The REDucation Day win improves the Abbey's record to 6-4 on the year with a 4-1 conference record. Emmanuel dips to 4-5 on the season and 3-3 against conference opposition.
Belmont Abbey jumped out to an early 6-0 in the first 1:15 of the game. By the end of the period, however, Emmanuel owned a 25-15 lead. The Crusaders continued to fight, holding the Lions to just two baskets in the first four minutes of the second. Sophomore Taylor Johnson scored eight points in the quarter. Emmanuel led 46-35 at the half.
Forwards Gabrielle Bethel and Chrystal Ezechukwu combined to score each of the first nine Crusader points of the third, narrowing the Emmanuel lead to six at 50-44. Junior Taylor Gittings ended the period with a jumper to make it a 67-57 Lions' lead heading into the final period.
The fourth quarter was all Abbey. The Crusaders went on a 9-0 blitz in the period's first 2:37 to pull within a point. For a while, Emmanuel maintained a narrow lead as the teams traded baskets. Then at the 4:44 mark, Bethel made a layup to give the Abbey a 72-71 lead. Belmont Abbey never trailed after that. Johnson scored six points in the final 2:38 as the team sealed an 85-81 victory.
On the day, Johnson's 25 points were a game-high. Bethel led all players with 13 rebounds, while also scoring 18. Ezechukwu chipped in with 11 points and eight boards. Guard Larisa Bishop contributed with 12 points. Alexius Hampton dished out a game-leading seven assists.
The Crusaders will be back in action on Friday, January 6 when they visit King University. That game will tip off at 5:30pm.