ATLANTA, Ga. – Despite furious rallies by its opposition throughout the game, the Elon University women’s basketball team held on for a 65-62 victory over Akron in the Phoenix’s first game at the Georgia State Holiday Classic on Wednesday, Dec. 21, inside the GSU Sports Arena.
Elon (6-4) won its second straight overall after battling the Zips (6-4) in a very tight game that had six lead changes and three ties. Neither team led by more than seven points in the contest, which the Phoenix did in the second quarter.
Shay Burnett had an outstanding all-around game, leading the Phoenix with 21 points while also adding eight rebounds, five assists and six steals to her stat line. Jenifer Rhodes contributed with her first double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 boards while Essence Baucom added 10 points.
Akron’s Hannah Plybon had a game-high 27 points and also had a double-double with 10 rebounds.
The Phoenix started the game with five quick points after a minute of play courtesy of a Lauren Brown three-pointer and a layup. Baucom’s layup at the 7:23 mark forced the Zips to an early timeout down 7-2 to the Phoenix. Akron then responded with a 10-2 run to take the lead at 12-9 on a pair of free throws at the 4:29 mark. After falling behind by three, 14-11, with 3:58 left in the period, Elon answered back with a 10-2 run to close out the quarter and take a 21-16 lead.
Elon opened the second by expanding its lead to seven on a Rhodes layup with just over a minute into the quarter. Back-to-back threes by the Zips sliced that lead to one, 23-22, and forced the Phoenix into a timeout at the 7:40 mark. The maroon and gold came out of the break with a 4-0 run to push its lead to five and held a five-point advantage after Malaya Johnson’s score with just under five minutes left in the half. Akron finished off the quarter strong on a 10-4 run to take a 34-33 lead going into the half.
After trailing by three, 36-33, around the 8:17 mark after the start third, Elon increased its defensive intensity and went on a 7-0 run over the next four minutes to regain lead. Rhodes put the Phoenix in front, 37-36, at the 6:44 mark before Burnett’s three-pointer just past the five-minute mark pushed Elon’s lead to four, 40-36. Elon went back up by five with 3:24 left in the quarter, 43-38, but another Zips run tied the game at 45-all with just over two minutes left in the period. The Phoenix’s Maddie McCallie put the Phoenix back in front with her jumper two seconds prior to the end of the third as Elon went into the fourth up 47-45.
Akron tied the game again at 47-47 after a pair of free throws by Plybon with 9:30 left in the contest. Burnett answered at the other end of the floor with a three-pointer that gave Elon a 50-47 lead. The Phoenix went ahead by six, 57-51, after Baucom’s layup at the 6:16 mark to force an Akron timeout.
The Zips still put the pressure on the Phoenix and kept at bay before bringing itself within one, 63-62, after a three by Morgan Sefcik with just under two minutes left in the game. Elon however made key defensive stops down the stretch to hold off Akron’s comeback and came out on top with a 65-62 victory.
Elon closes out the tournament tomorrow, Dec. 22, versus hosts Georgia State. Tipoff begins at 1 p.m.