C.J. Davis scored 13 points and Johnathan Crawford and Anthony Banks added 12 apiece for the Hawks (14-0, 5-0 SSAC), who withstood an early flurry from the Blazers to remain perfect through 14 games for the first time in program history.
Belhaven (6-10, 1-4) had its three-game winning streak snapped despite 17 points from Woodie Howard. The Blazers didn't trail until the 14:58 mark of the second half and lost the lead for good on a layup by Kenny Leverette with 9:45 to play.
Shorter's two new additions came up big down the stretch as the Hawks finally established some breathing room in the closing minutes.
Shorter closed the game on a 13-2 run after Belhaven closed to within one with 5:53 remaining. Davis hit a big 3 from the right wing with the shot clock winding down to put Shorter ahead 65-59 with 3:07 left and Banks scored on a strong post move and knocked down two free throws with 51 seconds to go to extend Shorter's advantage to 68-61.
Banks and Davis combined for 15 second half points to account for nearly half of Shorter's point production in the frame.
Hill, who entered the game averaging over 20 points a contest, shrugged off a sluggish start to score 10 of his 17 in the second stanza. He scored six straight points to turn a two-point Shorter deficit into a 50-48 lead with 12:36 left in the game. Hill finished 4-for-13 from the floor, but made all eight of his free throw attempts as Shorter shot a blistering 19 of 22 from the charity stripe as a team.
Shorter led 52-51 at the midway point of the second half, but a thunderous one-handed slam from Dante Harvey followed by two straight transition layups from Davis gave the Hawks a seven-point cushion and some much needed momentum.
Belhaven built a nine-point lead in the first half thanks in large part to 14 points from Howard. A 12-3 run by the Hawks tied the game at 19 with 9:05 left until halftime, but Belhaven scored 12 of the game's next 17 points to push its lead back out to seven at the 4:03 mark.
Two 3-pointers from Davis fueled Shorter's 12-6 run to close the half as Belhaven led 37-36 at the break.
Shorter shot 43 percent to Belhaven's 42 percent and despite 11 first half turnovers, coughed up the ball only six times in the second half. Shorter surrendered 16 offensive rebounds, but forced 23 Belhaven turnovers in the win. The Blazers also connected on just 8 of 19 from the foul line.
The Hawks continue SSAC play on Saturday as they play host to SSAC West Division leader William Carey at 5 pm in the Winthrop-King Centre.
Shorter University Athletic News
January 6, 2012
Poor shooting dooms Lady Hawks in 56-45 loss to Belhaven
Belhaven 56, Shorter 45
ROME -- Reigning Southern States Athletic Conference Co-Player of the Year Regena Jackson poured in a team-high 17 points as Belhaven University scored an upset of 18th-ranked Shorter in an SSAC cross-divisional showdown Friday night at the Winthrop-King Centre.
Belhaven (12-4, 5-0 SSAC) remained unbeaten in league play with the help of a dominating defensive performance. The Blazers avenged an 11-point overtime loss to the Lady Hawks in Jackson, Miss., last season and won their fifth straight game.
Shorter (10-3, 3-1) dropped its second straight home game after having its 21-game home winning streak snapped in a loss to No. 16 Xavier on Wednesday.
After falling to Xavier on a last second 3-pointer, Shorter struggled mightily from the field against a Belhaven team that reached the SSAC Tournament championship game last season.
Shorter shot just 28 percent for the game and missed 12 of its first 13 attempts from 3-point range. Aside from Brittney Smith, who led Shorter with 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting, the Lady Hawks combined to shoot 10-for-50 (20 percent) against a Belhaven defense that came into the game ranked No. 10 in the NAIA in field goal percentage defense.
The Lady Hawks led just once – Smith's layup 24 seconds into the game dealt Shorter a 2-0 lead – and after Belhaven's Portia Tucker hit a jumper and a 3-pointer on consecutive possessions to put the Blazers up 5-2, Belhaven never trailed again. The Blazers led by as much as 10 in the opening frame and yielded just 19 points to the Lady Hawks in the first half.
Shorter did make a push midway through the second half despite the poor shooting.
After Erika Leflore scored to put Belhaven up 41-32, Shelby Farrer hit a 3, Smith a layup and Allison Danner another trey to bring Shorter to within three with 5:29 remaining. The Lady Hawks had a chance to tie, but came up empty on their next two possessions. Belhaven's Kiara Johnson canned a 3 from the corner to put Belhaven up by six with 3:27 to play and Shorter never got closer than five points the rest of the way.
Shorter senior point guard Kelly Ellison finished with seven points and five assists, but shot just 2-for-16 while missing all five of her attempts from 3-point range. Robyn Foster chipped in with eight points on 3 of 9 shooting.
Belhaven got 12 points from Johnson and outrebounded the Lady Hawks 49-39 with the help of 10 offensive rebounds. The Blazers made 5 of 11 from beyond the arc in the first half to build its eight-point halftime lead.
Shorter returns to the court tomorrow, Saturday, Jan. 7, when it plays host to William Carey University at 3 pm in the Winthrop-King Centre.