Byrom and Smith lead Hawks past Bison, 83-79
WASHINGTON, D.C. -
With 46 second left -- and the ball -- holding an 80-77 advantage University of Maryland Eastern Shore coach Fred Batchelor called a timeout to quickly talk with his squad.
The Hawks inbounded the ball to junior point guard Ciani Byrom (Winston-Salem, North Carolina) who split the defense to get the ball up the court against the Howard pressure.
With almost everyone in the gym think she would drive to the basket as she had many times during the contest, the defense stepped to help, leaving graduate transfer Jordyn Smith (Durham, North Carolina) to step to the block, take a perfect pass from Byrom and put it away for an 80-77 lead with 15.1 ticks left.
Byrom them streaked down the court on defense and blocked a layup attempt by Ayonna Williams and the Hawks came up with the ball and held on for an 83-79 win.
"I thought that was the play of the game," Batchelor said. "I felt like at some point we were going to have to make a play. I think CiCi has been struggling all year to get back to playing her highest level of basketball. I thought Jordyn was able to catch and finish where she had dropped a few and struggled with their size. I thought for her to stay with it and finish that play was huge."
Byrom led Eastern Shore with 24 points on 8-of-14 shooting -- including 4-of-7 from 3 -- to go with three rebounds, three assists and that big block. She poured in 18 of those 24 points in the second half.
Smith picked up her second double-double of the season with 15 points and a Hawks career-high 14 rebounds in 36 minutes.
The Hawks (8-16, 5-7 MEAC) got down early in the first quarter by and many as nine points and trailed by eight (31-23) with 6:18 left in the second quarter.
"They shot the ball well," Batchelor said. "They made shots (9-of-17) and the post shot the ball well. Everything felt like it was going in, but I just knew it was a long game. I knew it was going to be a dog fight all the way."
But the Hawks kept chipping away at the lead tying the score at 32-32 just over three minutes later by virtue of a 9-1 run.
Senior Tori Morris (Herndon, Virginia) was a big part of weathering the Bison storm early scoring 10 points in just 10 minutes in the first half, but had to sit with 4:27 left in the half when she picked up her third foul.
"She picked up her third foul in the first half and I wasn't aware she had two," Batchelor said. "Normally we would have had her out, but (Bairesha Gill-Miles) was struggling tonight early and that caused us to want to stick with Tori in there. She was playing really well, she hit some big shots."
The Shore held a 45-39 lead at the break as the third quarter saw them convert 12-of 13 from the free throw line when they needed them most.
"I tell them all the time that I don't care how many threes they shoot, but there needs to be more free throws attempted than 3-pointers," Batchelor said. "I thought tonight both teams got a fair number of free throws, but I thought we were being aggressive, we got to the line and we didn't settle for jumpers."
Byrom opened the second half with a 3-pointer to push the lead to nine and a jumper to make it 11. By the time there was 5:47 left in the fourth, a pair of free throw by Gill-Miles (Lexington, Kentucky) had given the Hawks a 16-point advantage.
"Even when we got the lead, I knew we weren't going to walk away on their home floor up so early in the second half," Batchelor said. "We needed to stay in it until we made a play. It came down to stops and making plays. I thought down the stretch we made the stops we needed to make and we made the plays and knocked down free throws. I thought that was huge."
But the Bison didn't give up chipping away at that lead and took the lead back, 64-63, with just second remaining in the quarter.
The first round of heroics, came from Byrom then as she banked in a long 3 to take a 66-64 lead into the fourth quarter.
"I think we are capable of playing better basketball than we did for 40 minutes tonight," Batchelor said. "I thought getting that 16 points lead helped us and the big shot going into the fourth quarter was probably the biggest shot up to that point because it changed momentum."
Morris fouled out late in the fourth after converting a three-point play to give the Hawks a 78-70 lead. She finished with 14 points and five rebounds in 16 minutes.
Keyera Eaton (Winston-Salem, North Carolina) chipped in 13 points, four assists, two rebounds and a steal, while Martha Thompson (Bedford Heights, Ohio) had 12 rebounds, eight points, three assists a block and two steals.
The Hawks finished the game with a season-high 60 rebounds with 30 coming in each half. They grabbed 31 offensive rebounds, scored 28 points off 22 Howard turnovers and got 24 points from the bench.
The Shore will next leave on a two-game North Carolina road trip to face Central (Feb. 17) and A&T State (Feb. 19).
For more information on Eastern Shore Athletics visit http://www.easternshorehawks.com/.
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