NEWBERRY — Despite leading at halftime over the no. 5 team in the country, the Newberry women’s basketball team was unable to earn a big upset over Clayton State as the Lakers escaped from Eleazer Arena with a 66-60 victory over the Wolves.
Newberry (4-2) opened the game by scoring the opening points as senior Kendra Brown (Swansea) struck on an early layup, but strong defense and pressure from the Lakers (3-0) pushed the visitors ahead of Newberry as late as the 10 minute mark of the first period.
Trailing by seven points with 10 minutes on the clock, Newberry sophomore Samantha Creed (Montmorency ,Victoria, Australia) converted a fast break layup to pull the Wolves within five. A steal by sophomore Zara Pearson (Echuca, Victoria, Australia) on Clayton State’s next possession resulted in a pair of points from junior Tasia Holdorf (Anchorage, Alaska) and was soon followed by a pair of 3-point makes from Pearson and Creed.
Pearson and Creed’s makes were split by a Clayton State basket, which saw Creed’s three result in only a one-point advantage for the Wolves.
After the Lakers regained the lead, Newberry again answered with execution after Clayton State misses, as the Wolves not only regained the lead, but saw its lead reach five points.
The five-point lead was the largest of the game for the Wolves, as Clayton State chipped away at the Newberry lead before the Wolves headed to the locker room with a 29-28 lead.
The first half saw Pearson post a career high six assists, while Creed led the Wolves in scoring with seven points. Fellow sophomore Haylee Lepaio (Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia) recorded five first half rebounds for the Wolves.
Newberry saw Clayton State open the second half with a 5-0 run, which was answered two minutes into the second period when Creed hit from beyond the arc. Clayton State came out of the locker room at halftime with a reinvigorated offense which resulted in the Lakers lead reaching as many as 13 points with a little over ten minutes remaining in the game.
Back-to-back makes from beyond the arc by Brown and Creed cut the Lakers lead to six. Only a minute later, Newberry forced a stop on the defensive end and earned points as Holdorf converted a pair of free throws.
The Lakers and Wolves exchanged makes before with five minutes remaining; Lepaio converted a layup and hit a free throw as she was fouled on her make. Lepaio’s free throw make, gave Newberry a lead that was soon extended to three points as Lepaio scored again on the Wolves’ next offensive trip.
In the end the Lakers were able to pull away as Newberry was unable to get clean looks at the basket and Clayton State escaped with the 66-60 victory.
Creed led the Wolves with 16 points, while Lepaio added 14 points.
Lepaio’s nine rebounds were the most on the Newberry roster and left her one short of a fourth straight double-double performance. Pearson finished the evening with seven points and seven assists, while Brown also finished the night with seven points. Holdorf added eight points and six rebounds off the bench in the loss.
Newberry out worked Clayton State on the boards outdueling the Lakers 35-31 on the glass, while also recording a 17-10 advantage in assists.
Newberry continues its homestand on Sunday as the Wolves open South Atlantic Conference action with a 2 p.m. meeting with the Lady Railsplitters of Lincoln Memorial.