GREENWOOD – Lander junior guard Ariana Sanders scored a game-high 21 points as the No. 22 ranked Bearcats beat Converse College 90-71 Monday night at Horne Arena in the team’s final regular season nonconference game.
Lander improved to 6-2 while the Valkyries fell to 5-5.
“It was good to see us come out and shoot the ball well,” said head coach Kevin Pederson. “We talked about that a lot coming into this game. Ariana Sanders stepped up and had a big night for us. She’s got all the talent in the world.”
Sanders made eight of 14 shots from the floor including five 3-pointers to lead the Bearcats, who had four other double-figure scorers.
Christal Williams added 16 points on six of nine shooting from the floor and led Lander with five steals.
Zuzana Talackova came off the Bearcats bench to 12 points while Lea Petit contributed 11 points and a team-high seven rebounds.
Destinee Langford added 10 points for Lander while sharing team-high honors with six assists. Jessica Harris had nine points and six assists, while Chelsea Mitchellalso scored nine points and had four assists.
The Bearcats forced 30 turnovers, leading to 36 LU points.
The Bearcats were playing short-handed, having lost high-scoring senior guard Mylea McKenith for the season due to a knee injury suffered Saturday at Columbus State.
Brianna James led Converse with 19 points, Serenity Hunt added 12 points and Nigeria Davis led the visitors with eight rebounds. Paige Johnson paced the Valkyries with four assists.
Converse’s Dominique Hill made her second 3-pointer of the night, tying the game at 12 with 6:32 left in the opener quarter. But Lander’s Williams answered with a 3, giving the Bearcats the lead for good at 15-12.
Mitchell scored Lander’s next six points and the hosts went on to lead 28-23 after one quarter.
The Valkyries twice pulled within three early in the second period as James scored to make it 28-25 and Tatum Boggs hit one of two free throws, pulling Converse within 29-26 with 8:48 left in the half.
The Bearcats went on a 10-1 run to build a double-digit lead. Sanders scored inside and hit a 3 from the left corner, Harris converted a steal into a layup and three-point play, and Talackova made a backdoor layup off a pass from Langford giving Lander a 39-27 advantage at the 5:54 mark.
The Bearcats led by as many as 14 in the opening half and were up 47-36 at the break.
Lander extended its lead by scoring the first seven points of the second half. Williams and Sanders made 3s, and Langford added a free throw for a 54-36 advantage with 8:22 to go in the third.
The Bearcats grabbed their first 20-point lead of the game when Sanders nailed her second 3 of the quarter, making it 70-50 with 1:19 left in the third. Lander led 70-54 going into the final period.
The Bearcats opened the fourth quarter with a 7-2 run as Talackova was fouled behind the arc and made three of three free throws, Langford converted a driving layup, and Langford found Williams open for a lay-in to make it 77-56.
But Converse, which lost to Lander 91-49 last year, kept battling and used a 9-0 run to pull within 77-65 with 4:23 left. James and Boggs each hit 3s during the run.
The Bearcats put the game away with a 7-0 run as Sanders made a 3 from the left side, Petit hit a layup, and Harris added a lay-in off Petit’s steal for an 84-65 lead at the 3:27 mark.