ROMEOVILLE – After jumping out to a 20-2 lead in an 81-55 victory in their first meeting with Bellarmine, it was a good bet that things wouldn’t come as easily for Lewis University’s women’s basketball team in Thursday’s rematch at Neil Carey Arena.
And that certainly proved to be the case as the Knights trailed only 15-11 late in the first quarter and still were close at 30-23 with four minutes left in the first half before the Flyers began to pull away to claim a 75-60 Great Lakes Valley Conference victory.
It was the fifth straight victory both overall and in the GLVC for coach Samantha Quigley Smith’s Flyers
(12-4, 5-1), who remained perfect in six home games this season and have won 10 of their past 12 games.
“This league’s one of the best in the nation from top to bottom, so you’re going to have a game every night,” Quigley Smith said. “They’ve been playing confidently, so it’s one of those things where you can’t let up any night, you have to come ready to play. They did a great job of rebounding in the first half and kind of took us out our game a little bit. We weren’t able to get the stops that we wanted to run some transition game like we’ve been doing. So to their credit, I think they a great job in that regard.”
Bellarmine’s Liza Tibbs made a rebound basket with 4:01 left in the second quarter to make it 30-23, but Lewis scored 12 of the final 16 points in the half to grab a 42-27 lead. Chrissi Ekhomu (eight rebounds), Rachel Hinders (13 points) and Jessica Kelliher (27 points, nine rebounds, two blocks) each scored baskets in a 6-0 run to end the half.
The Flyers made 16-of-27 shots from the floor in the first half (59.3 percent) while the Knights (7-7, 2-3) only made 12 of 38 (31.6 percent). For the game, Lewis was 31-of-53 (58.5 percent) while Bellarmine shot 24 of 70 (34.3 percent).
Kelliher, who leads the nation in scoring with a 25.3 point average and was named as the U.S. Basketball Writers Association Women’s Division II National Player of the Week last week, collected 17 points and seven rebounds in the first half.
“It’s really tough to beat a team twice,” Kelliher said. “We played exceptionally well the last time we played them so we expected them to fight back this time and not let the same thing happen again. They put up a good fight but luckily we were able to get a pretty substantial lead and keep it. The most important thing is that we want to get the whole team involved. When we have players off of the bench scoring and have multiple people contributing in double figures like we did tonight, it’s really difficult to stop us.”
Gabby Green, Hinders and Kelliher each accounted for six points in the third quarter to help the Flyers take a 60-46 lead into the final 10 minutes and the visitors were unable to get any closer after that. Lewis opened up a 23-point lead in the final quarter but the Knights answered with a 10-0 run to make the final score a bit closer.
Other leaders for the Flyers were Tierney Lockett (nine points), Gabby Green (six points, eight assists, six steals), Kayla Brewer (six points) and Morgan Glatczak (six points). The Knights were paced by Beth Bowers (12 points).
“In every game that we’ve played so far, if we get out on top right off the bat, the other team always comes back,” Hinders said. “You don’t stay ahead by 20 or 30, it’s a game of runs and we just work really hard and emphasize defense and that really helps. When you have multiple players who are close to getting in double digits, you can’t stop that. Then everyone has to play one-on-one and that’s tough, especially at this level.”