ELON, N.C. – Aiesha Harper’s coast-to-coast layup with 3.5 seconds remaining on Friday night, Jan. 13, in Alumni Gym was the difference-maker that lifted the Elon women’s basketball team to a one-point win, 61-60, over the Georgia Southern Lady Eagles in a key Southern Conference matchup.
After a pair of Meredith Frye free throws put Georgia Southern (5-11, 1-6 SoCon) up one, 60-59, Elon (7-9, 3-4 SoCon) had the inbound under the Lady Eagles’ basket with 10 seconds remaining. After a quick give-and-go to Kelsey Evans and back to Harper, the senior point guard knifed through the GSU defense 94-feet to the basket for the layup with 3.5 ticks left on the clock to put the Phoenix up one, 61-60.
Janay Wilson took one last three-point heave for the Lady Eagles as time expired, but it was all for naught and the Phoenix walked off the court with a one-point victory.
“My role first and foremost as the point guard is to push the ball, so as soon as I got the ball back from Kelsey [Evans] that was my main focus, especially when no one stopped me,” Harper said. “I just tried to take advantage of the lane I was given and I hit the shot. This is a good win for us and it gives us momentum moving forward into Sunday’s game.”
Including the game-winner, Harper finished the night with eight points on 3-of-8 shooting from the field to go along with six assists. Harper, the SoCon’s leader in assist-to-turnover ratio, has recorded six or more assists in six games this season.
Ali Ford finished with a team-high 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting. All five of Ford’s makes came from long distance, as she now sits with 229 career three-pointers – six shy of breaking Lorretta Lawson’s all-time record of 234 makes from beyond the arc.
Kelsey Harris was the second Elon player to score in double figures, as she finished the night with 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field as well as a 4-of-8 clip from the free throw line.
“We had great leadership in the huddle during our last time out and everyone stayed calm and executed the final play flawlessly,” said Elon head coach Charlotte Smith. “We had tremendous leadership from our players down the stretch and didn’t fold when faced with adversity.
Our defense helped us out tremendously in the first half, especially when we were pressing,” Smith added. “[Georgia Southern] made adjustments and didn’t make it easy for us in the second half, but we kept our composure and battled for all 40 minutes tonight.”
Elon won the battle on the boards, 39-34, turning in 11 second-chance points off 13 offensive rebounds. Harris and Sam Coffer both finished with seven boards in the win.
Elon outscored Georgia Southern 18-16 in the paint, due in part to eight points off the bench for rookie Shannen Cochraham, playing in only her second collegiate game.
The Phoenix went into the locker room with a 37-30 lead, but the Lady Eagles battled back to tie and take the lead with 9:28 left after a pair of Frye freebies put Elon behind, 47-46.
Georgia Southern went up by as many as four points in the second half, but the Phoenix battled back after a Harris jumper and Ford three gave Elon a one-point edge, 51-50, with 7:36 to play.
The score was tied on 11 occasions, including the final time with 10 seconds remaining on the front-end of Frye’s free one-and-one free throw attempt.
Elon closes out its three-game homestand on Sunday afternoon, Jan. 15, when it welcomes College of Charleston to Alumni Gym for a 2 p.m. tip.