LAKELAND, Fla.--A second half rally by the Southeastern women's basketball team came up just short, Tuesday afternoon, as Southeastern lost to NCAA D-III Gwynedd Mercy College, 64-63, to kickoff their 2012 schedule.
The long layoff seemed to affect the Fire, who had not played a game since December 16, when they were defeated by Martin Methodist, 93-75. Southeastern fell behind early to the Griffins, and had to play catchup for the rest of the game.
A free throw made by Gwynedd Mercy's Jess Rotella gave the Griffins a 10-point lead (34-24) with just under a minute to play in the first half. SEU was able to chip into the 10-point lead before the half, but trailed 35-27 at the break, as the Griffins shot 43% from the field for the half.
SEU started off the second half with a bang, as sophomore Liz Capps knocked down a three-pointer for the first points of the second half, cutting Gwynedd Mercy's lead to just five points (35-30). But the Griffins took control of the game over the next five minutes, building their largest lead of the game (46-33) with 15:25 left to play.
The Fire managed to get Gwynedd Mercy's lead under 10 points (55-47) with 9:07 remaining in regulation. Then, a three-pointer by Tori Robison helped Southeastern cut the Griffins' lead to just five points. The SEU defense then picked up a few key stops, and baskets by Ciara Carter and Nadia Givens cut the Griffins' lead to just one point (55-54) with 7:16 remaining.
Both teams battled back and forth over the next five minutes of regulation. Then, a field goal by Southeastern's Ashley Wilson gave the Fire their first lead of the game (62-61) with 2:17 to play. But, Rotella then responded to give the Griffins the lead right back (63-62) with 1:56 to go.
Two costly turnovers by Gwynedd Mercy gave Southeastern a couple chances to take the lead. And finally, with just under 30 seconds to play in regulation, SEU's Liz Capps was fouled and awarded two free throws. Capps made 1-of-2 from the charity stripe to tie the score (63-63).
With their next possession, the Griffins drove the ball down the right side of the lane, only to have their shot blocked by the Fire. With just over 7 seconds left in the half, the Griffins got the ball to the corner with senior Brittany Neill, who drove the lane and was fouled. She then went to the line with 4.3 seconds left and made her first free throw to give the Griffins a 64-63 lead. Neill missed the second free throw, and SEU pushed the ball up the court but couldn't get a shot off as time expired.
"We came out sluggish today but was obviously happy with how we finished the game," said Coach Drew Watson. "We are moving in the right direction but need to put together two halves, which has been our biggest problem this year. This was a good opportunity to show us what we need to improve on heading into our conference schedule."
SEU's second half rally was made possible by Nadia Givens' 11 points and three assists. Givens finished the game with 15 points, seven assists, seven rebounds, and two steals.
Senior, Tori Robison, was the Fire's only other player to score in double-figures, finishing with 12 points on four three-point field goals. Wilson, Capps, and Carter all chipped in with nine points apiece. Freshman, Hannah Demarest, pulled down nine rebounds and added six points.
Rotella led the Griffins with 12 points and six rebounds. The win improves Gwynedd Mercy's record to 6-6 on the year.
Southeastern (3-8) will begin their Sun Conference schedule, Friday night, when they will travel to take on Warner University at 7:00 p.m.