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Bennett’s 33 lifts GC past Northwest, 63-51

By DUSTIN KENT 
News Herald Assistant Sports Editor 

Posted Jan 24, 2018 at 9:26 PM

 

PANAMA CITY — For the second time this season, Gulf Coast struggled to score against the stingy defense of Northwest Florida State. But just like in the first meeting in Niceville, Wednesday’s rematch at the Billy Harrison Field House saw the Lady Commodores escape with a victory, and with it, sole possession of first place in the Panhandle Conference standings.

 

Shayla Bennett scored 33 points to lead Gulf Coast to a 63-51 victory to improve to 16-2 overall on the season and 4-1 in the Panhandle Conference. Northwest Florida State falls to 18-2 overall and drops to 3-2 in the league with both losses coming to the Lady Commodores.

 

Northwest Florida State held a five-point lead late in the third quarter, but the Lady Commodores stormed back with a 13-2 run and outscored the Lady Raiders 29-12 over the final 13:22 of action. Kionna Jeter scored 10 of her 13 points in the second half for Gulf Coast, with Dominique Banks adding eight points and two blocked shots. Georgia Gayle and Trinity Baptiste were the top scorers for the Lady Raiders with 14 points each. Ashley Lee added 11 points.

 

Gulf Coast won the first meeting between the teams 50-48 on Jan. 10 in Niceville despite trailing for most of the game. The Lady

Commodores again found themselves facing a second-half deficit Wednesday, with Northwest starting the second half on a 7-0 run sparked by five straight points from Lee on a 3-pointer and a driving basket to go up 35-29.

 

Bennett answered with a three of her own, but another bucket by Lee and a free throw line jumper by Baptiste gave the Lady

Raiders a 39-34 edge with 3:22 left in the third quarter. Gulf Coast answered with a basket inside by Dominique Banks on an assist by Jhileiya Dunlap and a mid-range jumper by Jeter to draw to within one. Three free throws by Bennett and a tough, driving bank shot by Jeter in the waning moments of the third quarter gave Gulf Coast the 43-41 lead.

 

A pull-up jumper by Jeter and a mid-range shot by Dunlap pushed the edge to six for the Lady Commodores two minutes into the fourth. A driving bucket by Gayle snapped a six-minute scoring drought for the Lady Raiders to cut it to 47-43 with 6:02 remaining. The teams traded a slew of empty possessions until Bennett hit a deep 3-pointer with 2:25 to play to put Gulf Coast up seven.

 

After a jumper by Awa Trasi, Gulf Coast got two free throws from Bennett and a three-point play from Jeter, who caught a perfect baseball pass from the opposite baseline and finished a tough layup with the foul. Her three-point play gave Gulf Coast a 55-45 advantage with 1:16 to play to essentially seal the win.

 

The Lady Commodores are now a full game in front of Northwest in the standings and clinched the head-to-head tiebreaker for the season. The two teams will meet once more Feb. 14 in Niceville.

 

Bennett, who made 8 of 19 shots from the field and 5 of 9 from three, was the bulk of the Gulf Coast offense in the early going, scoring eight of the team’s 11 first quarter points to keep the Lady Commodores afloat amid a slow start that saw the Lady Raiders jump out to a 6-0 lead.

 

The sharpshooting sophomore provided the first points of the game for GC with a short jumper with 6:55 left in the first quarter, added a three-point play moments later, and then hit a driving bank shot late in the quarter to cut the Northwest lead to 14-11 after the first.

 

Bennett continued her hot shooting in the second quarter, scoring nine points on three triples, the last of which came with 20 seconds on the clock and gave the Lady Commodores a 29-28 edge at halftime.

 

Gulf Coast next plays Saturday at Tallahassee. Northwest Florida State returns home Saturday to take on Pensacola State.

 

NORTHWEST FLORIDA STATE (51)

Gayle 5 2-5 14, Echi 0 0-0 0, Wygal 0 0-0 0, Baptiste 3 8-8 14, Jernigan 1 1-2 3, Blevins 1 0-0 2, Lee 4 2-2 11, Lewis 1 0-0 3, Trasi 2 0-0 4. Totals: 17 13-17 51.

 

GULF COAST (63)

Green 0 0-0 0, Dye 2 0-0 4, Kincey 0 0-0 0, Johnson 0 0-0 0, Collins 1 0-0 2, Bennett 8 12-15 33, Diane 0 0-0 0, Jeter 5 1-1 12, Dunlap 1 1-2 3, Banks 2 2-2 6, Gaye 1 0-0 3. Totals: 20 16-20 63.

 

Northwest Florida State 14 14 15 8 — 51

Gulf Coast 11 18 14 20 — 63

3-point field goals: Gulf Coast 7 (Bennett 5, Jeter, Gaye), Northwest 4 (Gayle 2, Lee, Lewis). Total fouls: Northwest 20, Gulf Coast 18. Fouled out: none. Technical fouls: none.

 

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