Leah Graham scored a career-high 19 points and University of Mount Olive cut a 21-point second-half deficit down to single digits in the final minute, but the rally came up short as the Trojans fell to King University 69-61 in Conference Carolinas women's basketball Saturday at Bristol, Tenn. Gabby Griffin added 16 points, while Ty Wallace finished with 15 points and a career-high 18 rebounds. The Trojans' defense limited King to five points over the final 12-plus minutes of the game.
Mount Olive (3-8 overall, 1-4 Conference Carolinas) trailed 64-43 after a King field goal with 12:20 left in the contest. The Trojans held the Tornado to a single field goal over the next nine minutes to get back into the contest.
Martha Mastin hit a three-pointer and Griffin added a three-pointer as the shot clock expired with 8:10 left to play to spark the Trojans' rally. Wallace hit a jumper and Graham added a pair of jumpers in the lane to cap a 12-2 run and close the gap to 66-55 with 3:48 remaining.
King (7-4, 2-3) ended a streak of eight straight missed baskets on Arnelle Collins' putback with 3:25 left. Shy'lia Buie answered with a basket on Mount Olive's next possession and after Graham blocked a shot on the defensive end, Kiara Jones kept a possession alive with an offensive rebound and Wallace hit a short jumper with 1:35 remaining to cut the margin to single digits for the first time in the second half at 68-59.
After a steal by Anamaria Zjacic, Mount Olive appeared to be on its way to making it a two-possession game, but Buie's three-pointer from the right wing rimmed out. Collins hit 1-of-2 free throws for King with 25 seconds left to push the Tornado's lead back to 10. Zjacic hit a running jumper for the Trojans with 18 seconds left for the final margin.
In the first half, Mount Olive rallied from an early eight-point deficit as Wallace came off the bench to score five straight points and pull the Trojans within 14-11 with 13:13 left. But King answered with a three-pointer by Chelsea Bowling and a three-point play by Amy Van Deventer on its next two possessions.
After King took its first double-digit lead of the game, Graham converted a three-point play to cut the Trojans' deficit to 26-18 with 8:28 remaining. Bowling and Jalan Harper both hit three-pointers for King and the Tornado led by double figures for the final six minutes of the first half and most of the second half.
Mount Olive trailed by as many as 20 points in the first half before Wallace hit a jumper with 36 seconds left to cut King's lead to 49-32 at halftime. Graham (11 points), Gabby Griffin (10 points) and Wallace (nine points) combined for 30 of the Trojans' 32 first-half points.
Graham, whose previous career high was 12 points earlier this season, established a new personal best with a 10-foot jumper in the opening minute of the second half. She added seven rebounds and three blocked shots.
Collins led King with 19 points off the bench, while Whitney Mitchell added 17 points and Harper notched a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Mount Olive concludes its weekend road trip Sunday as the Trojans travel to Banner Elk, N.C., to take on Lees-McRae in Conference Carolinas action. Tip-off is 4 p.m.