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Hawks defeat Wesleyan

MURFREESBORO – A little challenge is always good.

And three basketball games in four days might’ve been challenge enough for the Chowan University women’s basketball team, but it was also a week that saw them play two of those games with a limited lineup.

Nonetheless, it all came together Sunday afternoon as the Lady Hawks posted their second win of the three-game set, a 64-55 triumph over North Carolina Wesleyan, avenging an earlier loss to the Lady Battling Bishops back in December, where Chowan lost, 48-46. 

Thursday the Hawks were missing second-leading scorer, Keyon Sellers, but pulled off a 56-50 win.  Then in Saturday’s contest against National Christian College Athletic Association member, North Greenville, they played without leading scorer and rebounder, A.J. O’Banion and point guard Brittany Nicholson and fell to the Lady Crusaders, 70-53.

Sunday they were back at full strength and it showed in the victory, which gave them a two-two split in their four-game home stand to open 2008.

&uot;You may call it a split,&uot; said a smiling coach Pat Mashuda after the game, who then corrected my math, &uot;but we’ll take it more as two (wins) out of three.&uot;

Chowan was led by O’Banion with 19 points, nine rebounds, three steals and a pair of blocked shots. Najah Harris had 16 points and four assists, while Sellers had 13 points in just 19 minutes of play. 

Nicole Williams led Wesleyan with 12 points.

Capitalizing on a size and speed advantage, Chowan opened the game on an 11-4 tear and upped the lead to 10 twice, the last time at the midway point in the half on a jump shot by Sellers to make it 22-12. 

Some sloppy defensive play and three turnovers allowed the Bishops to get back into the contest and Wesleyan cut the lead to one with a chance to tie at the six-minute mark when Williams made one of two free throws to make the deficit 26-25.

With the game swinging back and forth, Wesleyan took the lead 32-30 when Triann Campbell made a steal and scored for the only lead the Bishops would have in the game.  O’Banion closed out the half making three of four foul shots and then blocked a shot as time expired to sent Chowan into the break leading, 33-32.

&uot;We left too many people open and fouled when we shouldn’t have in the first half,&uot; said Mashuda afterward, &uot;but the young ladies responded with much better execution of the game plan in the second half.&uot;

Chowan still clung to a one-point lead (35-34) early in the second half before they turned up the offense and went on a 9-0 run thanks to jumpers by O’Banion and Harris and built a nine-point lead (44-35) four and a half minutes into the frame. 

They increased the margin to their largest lead of 13 points nine minutes in at 54-41 and this time utilized their height advantage in the low post and played much tighter man-to-man defense that blunted any rally Wesleyan attempted. 

A seven-point deficit thanks to a pair of Desiree Driver free-throws to make the score, 60-53, was as close as Wesleyan came the rest of the half.  With Wesleyan forced to foul, Chowan closed it out at the free line for the nine-point win.

&uot;It was a little frustrating when the season began,&uot; said Harris, &uot;but we’re ready to step it up and it’s getting to be a lot better now.&uot;

&uot;Our defense fell off a little in the first half,&uot; chimed in Nicholson, &uot;but we came out in the second half ready to just turn it up because we saw no reason to lose to that team in particular.&uot; 

The comment was an obvious reference to the heartbreaking two-point loss in Rocky Mount earlier in the season.

&uot;It should be good coming up these next couple of games,&uot; she said, &uot;now that we’ve got everybody back.&uot;

Chowan takes to the road Wednesday against rival, Newport News Apprentice in Virginia before returning home Saturday against the University of D.C. and then a rematch against West Virginia Tech – a team they fell to 64-41 earlier in the season - on Monday.