CENTRAL, S.C. – A hot shooting night was almost forgotten about as Southern Wesleyan held off Converse College 76-67 on Friday night in a matchup of Conference Carolinas foes. The Warriors shot 61 percent in the game but the Valkyries were within two points with three minutes to play.
Gabrielle Bates led all players with a career-high 17 points as four Warriors reached double digits. Bates also recorded a game-high nine rebounds. Cayse Branyon notched a season-high 15 points as Bri Seda also added 15. Christiana Perkins added 10 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and five steals.
The Warriors (4-4, 2-3 CC) shot 69 percent in the first half (16 of 23) but led by only six at 37-31. The Valkyries made 11 of 22 (50 percent) in that first half as they fought back from a seven-point deficit to take a 25-24 lead on a Margo Dill jumper with 5:54 to play in the half. A 9-0 run by the Warriors put SWU up going into the break.
In the second half the Warriors pushed the lead to double digits for the first time early on back-to-back baskets by Perkins and Bates to start the half. They later stretched the margin to 12 on two separate occasions.
The Warriors kept Converse at bay for most of the half, answering every mini run with a basket or a defensive stop. SWU held Converse to just 39 percent shooting in the second half (13 of 33) while shooting nearly 54 percent (14 of 26). The Warriors finished the game shooting 61 percent (30 of 49) while Converse came in at 43 percent (24 of 55).
The Valkyries started closing the gap with 6:46 to play as Erin Horne connected on a triple that brought the SWU lead down to 57-51. A Seda basket pushed the lead back to eight but a basket and foul converted by Margo Dill cut the lead down to five. Seda again answered with a basket but another old fashioned three-point play by Converse, this time by Ashley Salgado, brought the lead back to four.
With 3:39 to play Bates was fouled in the paint but managed to score through the contact to give the Warriors a 65-59 lead. After failing to convert the three-point play, Converse came down and scored to again cut the lead to four. A turnover on the next possession by the Warriors and a subsequent foul allowed the Valkyries to climb to within two at 65-63 with 3:17 to play.
The Warriors turned the ball over on the next possession but Converse couldn't convert. The Valkyries had four chances on the next possession but were unable to score. Seda answered for the Warriors to put them back up by four. Another two misses by Converse led to a foul and a made free throw for Perkins as the Warriors stretched the lead back to five. Converse made just two baskets in the final 3:17 after pulling to within two points.
SWU won the battle on the boards with 30 total rebounds to just 24 for Converse. The Valkyries did grab 10 offensive rebounds but led to just nine points. The Warriors were more efficient with their second chance opportunities, scoring 13 points on eight offensive rebounds.
The Warriors made just 3 of 8 (37.5 percent) from beyond the arc while Converse connected on 5 of 12 (42 percent). SWU made 13 of 18 (72 percent) from the free throw line as the Valkyries converted 14 of 19 (74 percent).
The Warriors will make the return trip to Spartanburg to battle Converse on Jan. 24.
SWU has their quickest turnaround in conference play as they host Limestone on Saturday at 5:30 pm in the first of two meetings with the Saints.