GREENWOOD – The No. 6-ranked Lander women’s basketball team got a game-tying layup from Makaila Cange with four seconds left to force overtime and went on to beat No. 12 North Georgia 69-63 behind Miriam Recarte‘s fourth consecutive double-double Saturday afternoon at Horne Arena.
The Bearcats stayed unbeaten, improving to 7-0 overall and 5-0 in the Peach Belt Conference.
The Nighthawks fell to 5-1, 2-1.
Saturday marked the first regular-season meeting between two top-15 teams for Lander since a Feb. 23, 2011, game between the No. 2 Bearcats and No. 14 USC Aiken.
Recarte led Lander with 19 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots.
Zamiya Passmore scored 16 of her 18 points after halftime, including eight in overtime. She paced the Bearcats with seven assists.
Amiaya Melvins had a big all-around game for Lander with 13 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals including forcing a big turnover in overtime as well as drawing a pair of offensive fouls in the extra session. Melvins scored six points in the fourth quarter when the Bearcats erased a five-point deficit.
Cange finished with nine points and shared Lander team-high honors with 11 rebounds.
Abbie Franklin paced North Georgia with 17 points while Caroline Martin added 12 points. Julianne Sutton contributed a double-double for the Nighthawks with 10 points and a game-high 17 rebounds, including 15 on the defensive end. Kara Groover led North Georgia with six assists.
The Nighthawks scored nine unanswered points to take an early 9-4 advantage. Lander regained the lead when Melvins rebounded her own miss, laid it in, drew the foul and completed the three-point play for a 14-13 advantage with just over two minutes left in the first.
Recarte hit a long 3-pointer from the top of the key with four seconds to go, giving the Bearcats a 20-18 lead going into the second period. Recarte had 11 points in the opening quarter.
North Georgia opened the second period with six unanswered points, taking a 24-20 lead on Abby Hubert’s basket at the 7:13 mark. Natalia Crooke‘s 3 from the left corner pulled Lander within 28-27 and Sarah Crews made a long jumper to tie it at 29-all with 2:15 left.
But Martin made a pair of driving layups as the Nighthawks closed the half on a 5-0 run for a 34-29 lead at the break. It was Lander’s first halftime deficit of the season.
Passmore’s driving floater in the lane tied it at 34 with 7:14 left in the third. Franklin’s 3 from the right side followed by Chloe Savage’s layup put North Georgia up 42-36 inside the three-minute mark.
A steal and driving layup by Melvins pulled Lander within 42-40 with 1:46 to go. The Nighthawks regained their halftime lead of five points, taking a 47-42 advantage going into the fourth.
But the Bearcats responded, opening the final period with nine consecutive points to take a 51-47 lead with 6:42 left. Passmore opened the run with a jumper, Crews made a game-tying 3, Melvins scored off a feed from Passmore, and Crews nailed a baseline jumper.
Martin made one of two free throws to pull North Georgia within 53-50 with 1:59 to go. But Melvins made both of her free throws as Lander led 55-50 with 1:41 left.
Franklin’s transition 3 cut the Nighthawk deficit to 55-53 with 1:34 to go. Cange’s free throw pushed Lander’s lead to three, but Franklin’s layup cut it to 56-55 with 50 seconds left.
The remaining 50 seconds were frantic. The Bearcats missed a quick shot on their end, giving North Georgia a chance to take the lead. Martin missed a trey from the right side with 16 seconds left and Lander rebounded. But the Bearcats turned the ball back over when Groover intercepted a pass. Groover passed to a fast-breaking Martin for a driving layup and three-point play, putting the Nighthawks up 58-56 with seven seconds to go.
It was Lander’s turn to rally. Cange took an inbounds pass from Recarte at the free-throw line and aggressively drove to the basket for a game-tying layup with four seconds left to make it 58-all.
North Georgia had a chance to make a game-winner, Melvins intercepted the inbounds pass, lost the ball again on a traveling call, and then Groover’s desperation 3-point attempt off an inbounds pass fell short at the buzzer sending the game into overtime.
Passmore’s free throws and a Melvins driving basket after she had drawn an offensive foul gave the Bearcats an early four-point lead in overtime. Passmore made a driving basket in the lane giving Lander a 64-61 lead with 1:43 left.
Sutton’s layup closed the Nighthawk deficit back to one and North Georgia would grab a defensive rebound with a chance to take the lead. But Recarte stole an entry pass and then Passmore would hit two free throws for a 66-63 Bearcat lead with 48 seconds left.
Melvins forced a Nighthawks turnover and then Passmore added two more free throws, making it 68-63 with 28 seconds to go. Recarte added a defensive rebound and free throw for a 69-63 final.