Daria Simmons scored a career-high 22 points as University of Mount Olive survived a series of comebacks for a 72-58 victory over North Greenville in Conference Carolinas women's basketball Friday at Kornegay Arena. Simmons also had seven rebounds, six assists and five steals. The win was the fifth in six games for the Trojans, who led wire-to-wire despite seeing a double-digit lead cut to a single point in the fourth quarter.
Mount Olive (10-8 overall, 8-4 Conference Carolinas) led by eight at the half and extended its lead to 43-30 with 6:59 left in the third quarter after back-to-back jumpers by Simmons. After North Greenville pulled within seven, Arieal Johnson's 14-foot jumper gave the Trojans a 52-43 lead with 1:13 remaining in the third quarter. Mount Olive would go scoreless for nearly four minutes, allowing North Greenville to pull within one possession.
North Greenville scored the final five points of the third quarter and Erika Cobb's three-pointer with 9:15 left to play drew the Crusaders within 52-51. Mount Olive failed to score on its next possession, allowing North Greenville a chance to take its first lead of the game. The Crusaders came up with offensive rebounds after three consecutive missed shots and stole the ball back after turning it over. North Greenville missed its fourth straight attempt and Tommarah Harris pulled down the rebound for Mount Olive.
Harris hit a jumper on the other end to key an 8-0 run and give the Trojans some breathing room. North Greenville got as close as 61-56 with 2:22 remaining, but Johnson's three-point play triggered a game-ending 11-2 run to seal the win.
Ni'Ya Styles hit a three-pointer on the opening possession of the game as Mount Olive scored the first seven points of the contest and raced out to a 13-1 lead. The Trojans held North Greenville without a field goal until Divonnie Powell hit an off-balance layup off the right side of the glass with 4:36 left in the first quarter.
North Greenville chipped away at the lead as Cobb's three-pointer and Aliya Maloof's two free throws pulled the Crusaders within three. But for the second game in a row, Styles hit a three-pointer at the buzzer at the end of the first quarter to give the Trojans an 18-12 lead.
The lead returned to double digits as Simmons and Felicity Havens combined for all of the points in a 9-2 run to start the second quarter and give Mount Olive its biggest lead of the first half at 27-14 with 6:15 remaining. North Greenville got as close as six points after Chantel Strahorn's jumper with 55 seconds remaining. Shy'lia Buie found Havens on a backdoor cut with 37 seconds remaining and the Trojans went into the locker room with a 35-27 halftime lead.
Johnson finished with 18 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots, while Havens added a season-high 16 points to go with six rebounds off the bench. Simmons, Johnson and Havens combined for 56 of the Trojans' 72 points.
Cameron Carter led North Greenville with 14 points, while Powell flirted with a triple-double with 10 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Crusaders.
The Trojans are right back in action Saturday in the first-ever live national telecast in any sport to originate from the University of Mount Olive campus. Mount Olive plays host to undefeated and nationally fifth-ranked Limestone College in a Conference Carolinas contest that will be televised live by American Sports Network and aired on 48 stations covering 30 states (and Puerto Rico) and all four time zones in the lower 48. Tip-off is 4:04 p.m.
Saturday's contest is also part of the 33rd Annual Mount Olive Basketball Church Night.