Published 5:22 pm Sunday, January 16, 2011

ASKEWVILLE – It lived up to a huge billing.

Friday night two teams – both undefeated in North Carolina Christian Athletic Conference play – met here. The teams split last season before Gramercy went on to win another state title.

This year, Bethel Christian Academy looked to tip the scales back in their favor with their entire starting lineup intact. The teams battled for all four quarters and the deciding shot left one player’s hands with a single tick left on the clock.

It was that shot – from sophomore Jessica Howerton – that gave Bethel their first win over Gramercy in their home gym for nearly a decade by a final of 29-27.

“We’ll see them again – probably twice more,” Bethel Head Coach Ashley Byrum said. “They’re a good team and we’ve improved a lot. I’m sure that in addition to our trip there, we’ll see them again in the state tournament.”

Bethel controlled the tempo through much of the contest, but Gramercy appeared to have shifted the momentum with three minutes to play. Byrum called a timeout and the coaching staff decided to change the game plan.

“We called the timeout and they did what we asked of them,” the coach said. “Lyndal (White, assistant coach) and I knew things had shifted and we wanted to shorten the game. We knew the fewer chances we gave them, the better off we would be.”

The Lady Warriors rallied to close their gap – once nine points – to a single basket (27-25) with just over four minutes to play.

The Bethel coaching staff used the timeout and their team executed the stall offense to perfection, running off nearly two minutes of game time. Unfortunately, the open layup taken after that two-minute span bounced off the back iron and Gramercy rebounded the ball.

The Lady Warriors then missed their own shot, but got the rebound and Amy Koran hit the game-tying shot with 22 seconds to play. She was fouled on the attempt and missed the free throw, but it went out of bounds and back to Gramercy.

A missed shot with 13 seconds to play missed and Howerton and Rebekah Williams tied it up with the possession arrow in Bethel’s favor.

The Lady Eagles took the ball down court and Kelsie Conner drove to the basket and put up a shot which came off the back glass right into Howerton’s hands. The sophomore put it back up as time expired and it went through the hoop giving the Lady Eagles the victory.

The game was low-scoring throughout thanks to solid defense on both ends of the court.

The Lady Eagles were able to jump out to an early 10-2 lead, only to see the Warriors take the lead in the second quarter.

Elizabeth Farmer started the contest with a three-point less than a minute in and Charitee Dunlow added a hoop a moment later to give Bethel a 5-0 edge.

Williams scored with 5:26 to play in the first quarter to provide Gramercy’s first hoop, but Farmer again hit from three-point land to make it 8-2 with 4:41 to play in the quarter. Farmer added a layup seconds later and Bethel led 10-2.

Neither teams scored for more than three minutes before Danielle Cobb hit a hoop with 54 seconds left in the first half to make it 10-4.

The Lady Warriors kept going in the second quarter, getting hoops from Cobb, Koran and Hanna Sanders as well as two Williams free throws to take a 12-10 lead.

Farmer closed the gap by hitting 1-of-2 from the charity stripe and then Howerton scored to make it 13-12 in favor of Bethel.

The Lady Eagles got an additional hoop from Farmer and then Dunlow made a keep pass to Conner for another score and Bethel took a 17-12 lead into the intermission.

The third quarter saw the Lady Eagles maintain their lead thanks to hoops from Conner, Farmer and Kristin Adams. They led 25-17 heading into the final quarter.

Gramercy outscored Bethel 10-4 in the final period with Conner scoring just 56 seconds into the quarter and the Lady Eagles being held scoreless from that point until Howerton’s last-second shot.

“I’m pleased with our effort, that’s for sure,” Byrum said. “The defense was a total team effort. No one person won this game; everyone had to do their part.”

Farmer led the Lady Eagles with 13 points. She added three steals, two assists and a rebound. Conner chipped in eight, to go with six rebounds and three steals.

Howerton had four points, four rebounds and three blocked shots while Dunlow had two points, five assists and six rebounds. Adams claimed two points, one assist, two steals and pulled down a pair of rebounds from her guard position.

Williams and Cobb led Gramercy with eight points each.

The win boosted the Lady Eagles to 15-2 overall and 3-0 in conference play. Gramercy dropped to 7-1 and 2-1 in the league.