By Matt Green
ROME – Lynette Harris scored 17 points to lead the Shorter Lady Hawks to a 56-53 victory over the University of West Alabama in each team's Gulf South Conference opener on Thursday night at the Winthrop-King Centre.
Kristin Nash added 13 points for the Lady Hawks (2-1, 1-0 GSC), who saw a 16-point first half lead completely evaporate before closing with a 10-5 run in the final 6:11 of the game to secure the win.
Shorter, playing in its first-ever Gulf South Conference game as part of its first season as an NCAA Division II affiliate, used a big first half to put the Tigers in a hole before having to rally in the closing moments of the contest.
West Alabama (4-3, 0-1), the defending Gulf South Conference Tournament champions, had no answer for the Lady Hawks' inside-out duo of Harris and Nash in the opening half.
Harris scored seven straight points as part of a 9-0 Shorter run that put the Lady Hawks up 16-6 with 13:58 to go in the opening frame. A 3-point play by Nash followed by back-to-back layups from Harris made it 23-8 Shorter at 9:13 and the Lady Hawks posted their largest lead of the game at 29-13 at the 6:27 mark of the first half on a Chelsi Matthews layup.
That's when West Alabama made its run.
The Tigers held Shorter scoreless over the final six minutes of the first half while scoring the final 10 points of the frame to pull within 29-23 at halftime. West Alabama's Brittany Weathers, who poured in a game high 22 points on 7-for-23 shooting, led the Tigers' surge, which continued into the second half.
West Alabama grabbed its first lead since 3-2 when Anna Dill nailed a short jumper to put the Tigers up 43-41 with 10:04 to go in the game and Weathers put West Alabama up 48-46 with a free throw at the 6:11 mark.
But Shorter's Karisma Boykin knotted the contest at 48 seconds later with a layup and Ieshia Alexander put the Lady Hawks up to stay with another layup following a turnover by Weathers. Harris and Boykin sandwiched buckets around a shot clock violation by West Alabama to put Shorter ahead 54-48 with 3:50 to go.
Weathers hit her final jumper of the game with 3:05 left to bring the Tigers within 54-53, but Shorter held West Alabama without a point over the final three minutes and Alexander provided Shorter with a 56-53 cushion with 20 seconds left after a beautiful backdoor cut and feed from Shelby Farrer. West Alabama misfired on two long 3-point attempts in the final seven seconds.
Harris and Nash each snagged five rebounds for Shorter. Alexander came off the bench to score six points and Boykin and Peeples chipped in with five apiece. The Lady Hawks, who shot 43 percent for the game, held West Alabama to 32 percent shooting – 22 percent in the first half – and 1-for-19 accuracy from beyond the arc.
Joining Weathers in double figures for West Alabama were Jamie Gunter (14 points) and Tamya Thompson (13).
Shorter returns to Gulf South Conference action on Sunday, December 2 when it travels to in-state rival West Georgia for a 3 pm tip-off in Carrollton.