The sign of a good team is when it can overcome rough spells and still earn a win. Despite trailing by 11 with five minutes to play, Eastern Mennonite’s women stepped up their defense, which in turn fueled their offense to a 23-3 game-ending run and a 71-62 win over Randolph-Macon.
After trading leads in the first half, neither team scored over the final 3:28 of the frame as the Yellow Jackets took a 26-25 lead into the break.
The Royals’ offensive woes continued early in the second, and R-MC pushed open leads of 33-27 and then 53-44.
Eastern Mennonite chipped the edge back down to five, but another 6-0 spurt gave the Yellow Jackets their biggest lead of the night at 59-48 with 5:03 to play.
That’s when the tide turned. The Royals turned up the intensity on defense, both in full court pressure and in the half court. Over the final five minutes, the senior-laden Randolph-Macon squad committed nine turnovers, including a pair of shot clock violations.
EMU rattled off 19 unanswered points to leapfrog to a 67-59 advantage with 44 seconds to play. The Yellow Jackets then got their only points of the final minutes on a three-point play, but the Royals provided the final four points from the free throw line, icing the nine-point win.
Over the decisive final 5:03, the women scored on 12 of their 14 possessions, while holding R-MC to three points and forcing nine turnovers.
Coach Kevin Griffin said his team battled through a few sick players and some bad bounces.
“I’m really proud of our effort and that we didn’t hang our heads,” Griffin said. “Our press really affected them, and I thought Steph just put us on her back for a while.”
Sophomore Stephanie Rheinheimer (Manheim, PA/Lancaster Mennonite) scored a game high and career best 19 points, all in the second half. She scored 10 of those during EMU’s big 23-3 run, including back-to-back three pointers, and added three steals. Kala Yoders (Myerstown, PA/ELCO) struggled from the floor, but still notched a double double with 15 rebounds, 11 points and a team best six assists.
Shakeerah Sykes (Dumfries, VA/Forest Park) was 6-for-7 from the floor as both she and Bianca Ygarza (Conestoga, PA/Penn Manor) scored 13 points.
The Royals forced 27 turnovers, an impressive feat against a Randolph-Macon team which started four seniors. Another key was the women shooting a deadly 20-for-23 from the free throw line.
“Even on a night when it seems like we have girls who are having off nights, we still get Kala with 15 rebounds and Bianca with 13 points,” Griffin said.
Taylor Wieczorek (Grasonville, MD/Severn) led Randolph-Macon with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Sarah Parsons (Glen Allen, VA/J.R. Tucker) added 18 off the bench and Maggie Roy (Richmond, VA/Mills Godwin) came in with 13 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
Eastern Mennonite improves to 16-2 overall and 13-2 in the ODAC with the impressive win. R-MC slides to 10-9 and 8-6. The Royals continue a busy week with a non-conference hosting of Mary Baldwin on Thursday.