GREENWOOD – The Lander women's basketball team got a combined 69 points from Jessica Harris, Symone Starks and Mylea McKenith and beat Peach Belt Conference rival Francis Marion 87-65 Wednesday night at Horne Arena. Harris led the way with 25 points, 13 rebounds, eight steals and seven assists.
The Bearcats, who started the night one game behind North Georgia for first place in the PBC, improved to 10-5 overall and 7-2 in the conference. North Georgia also won Wednesday, improving to 6-1 in the league.
The Patriots fell to 6-5, 3-4.
"We talked about coming out with some passion [in the second half]," said head coach Kevin Pederson. "I thought we were lethargic early and we got punched in the mouth, going down 14-4. In the second half, we did a better job of getting contributions from more than just three people."
Though Francis Marion leads the overall series 48-35, Lander has won six straight over the Patriots at Horne Arena.
The Bearcats surpassed their season average of 82 points per game, which was tops in the Peach Belt and eighth in the nation. Lander outscored Francis Marion 50-33 in the second half. The Bearcats have held eight of their 15 opponents this season under 70 points.
Harris made eight of 16 shots from the floor and all eight free throw attempts, and grabbed 10 of her 13 boards on the defensive end.
Starks scored 24 points on nine of 18 shooting from the floor while grabbing seven rebounds for Lander. Starks made five three-pointers.
McKenith added 20 points on seven of 15 shooting and grabbed three steals, closing within 13 steals from the Lander program's career record.
Abigail Bullock led the Patriots with 17 points, Kiana Adderton added 15 points, Shaunice Fulmore scored 14 while Zaria Woods added 10 points and a team-leading nine rebounds. Fulmore and Briana Burgess had five assists apiece.
Francis Marion led 9-0 on Fulmore's three-pointer with 6:50 left in the opening quarter and 18-8 on Adderton's jumper at the 3:19 mark. But a three-pointer by Starks helped the Bearcats close the period on a 6-0 run to pull within 18-16 going into the second quarter.
Starks hit two more threes to give Lander leads of 19-18 and 22-20 early in the second period. The Bearcats were up by as many as nine, 37-28, on two Harris free throws with 2:51 left in the half.
Lander led 37-32 at the break.
The Bearcats took their first double-digit advantage on Harris's steal and driving layup, making it 43-32 with 8:27 to go in the third.
Harris swished a three from the left wing and added a driving layup, McKenith drove in for a bucket, and Michelle Wright hit an up-and-under shot at the rim during a 9-3 run, building Lander's lead to 59-45 with 3:23 left.
The Bearcats took a 61-51 advantage going into the final quarter.
Ariana Sanders made a three from the right corner, extending Lander's advantage to 72-55 at the six-minute mark. McKenith's trey from the left corner made it 76-57 with 5:03 remaining.
Starks made her fifth three of the game for an 83-61 lead with 2:02 to go.