NEWBERRY — An impressive all-around performance from sophomore Zara Pearson and the 17th double-double of Haylee Lepaio’s career paced Newberry in a 69-60 victory over the visiting Lincoln Memorial Lady Railsplitters in the Wolves’ South Atlantic Conference opener.
Newberry (5-2, 1-0 SAC) scored the game’s opening basket, which was countered by a Lincoln Memorial (4-4, 0-2 SAC) layup for the only tie score of the afternoon. After LMU tied the game at 2-2, Newberry sophomore Samantha Creed (Montmorency, Victoria, Australia) responded with a steal and a fast break layup to give the Wolves an advantage that they would carry with them the remainder of the game.
The Wolves quickly extended their lead to as many as eight points in the opening five minutes on baskets from Pearson (Echuca, Victoria, Australia) and senior Kendra Brown (Swansea). The Wolves soon saw LMU cut their lead to five points, before again going on a run, which would see the Newberry lead reach as many as 10 points.
With five minutes remaining in the opening half and a 27-21 Newberry lead, junior Devanee Taylor (Chester,Va.) converted a pair of free throws and set off a 6-0 Wolves run. Following Taylor’s pair of makes, Pearson hit a 3-pointer that was soon followed by a layup from freshman Kirsten Dunsmore (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia) giving the Wolves a 34-21 lead over the visiting Lady Railsplitters.
A steal on LMU’s final possession of the half by Creed secured the Wolves 13-point halftime lead.
Lepaio’s 13 points at halftime led all scorers, while both Pearson and Creed tallied five assists in the opening period.
Lincoln Memorial looked to come out of the locker room ready to push the Wolves as Mariah Richardson scored the half’s opening points for LMU, but a two-point make from Lepaio followed by a 3-pointer from Pearson extended the Newberry lead to 16 at 39-23.
LMU’s Ralissa Nelson split from the line, before another Lepaio basket put the Wolves up by 17. On multiple occasions the Lady Railsplitters cut the Wolves lead down to 10 points or less, but a 10-0 Newberry run pushed the Wolves ahead by 20 points with 7:51 remaining in the game.
It was not until the five minute mark in the game that LMU began to give Newberry trouble as a layup by Kelsey Bradford cut the Lady Railsplitters deficit to six points with less than a minute remaining. In the final minute, Creed, Brown and Pearson combined for a 7-8 showing from the free throw line, securing a nine point Newberry victory in the SAC opener.
Lepaio’s fourth double-double of the season and 17th of her career came with 25 points and 11 rebounds, which were combined with three blocks and three steals on her stat line. Lepaio’s three blocked shots give 50 in her career, which puts her in a tie with former Newberry basketball player Laura Marquardt for ninth most blocks in a career.
Pearson’s impressive stat line includes 13 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Creed also posted seven assists, while junior Ellie Gleeson (Albury, New South Wales, Australia) recorded five assists.
Newberry outrebounded LMU 43-30 on the afternoon, and outscored the Lady Railsplitters 36-26 in the paint.
The Wolves return to action on Dec. 10, when Newberry plays host to Voorhees at 6 p.m. inside of Eleazer Arena.