December 7, 2016 – Bryan College sophomore guard and former Rhea County High School Golden Eagles standout, Amber Levi, hit 6-of-9 in three-point territory, shot 9-of-13 from the field, and was 7-of-8 at the foul line for a career-high 31 points in helping the Bryan Lions Women’s Basketball team steamroll fellow Appalachian Athletic Conference opponent Columbia College (S.C.) at home Wednesday night 86-45. The win raised Bryan’s overall record to 3-6 and conference record to 2-4, while dropping Columbia to 2-7 overall and 1-5 in the AAC.
It was a balanced effort by the Lions in one of their most notable performances of the year as they forced the Koalas into difficult looks that resulted in a 25.8 percent shooting percentage for the game and 33.3 percent behind the arc while piecing together their own 39.2 percent from the floor and connecting an impressive 52 percent from deep.
Bryan outrebounded Columbia 47-40 with assistance from Megan Billingsby who corralled a game-high nine misses, Brandi Whitted who snagged six, Levi who followed with five, and four apiece by Tonesha Allison, Marlee Sells, and Erisha Talley. The Lions did well in keeping possession and minimizing turnovers to only 10 while tallying 14 steals, three blocks, and causing the Koalas to turn the ball over a total of 24 times.
Billingsby was one rebound shy of her fourth double-double this season as she registered nine rebounds, 14 points, and four assists. She was 5-of-12 shooting and 2-of-5 from the three-point line. Tristan McClellan matched Billingsby for a team-high four assists. Kaylee Smith’s 14 points marked her sixth game this season where she has produced double-digits. She shot 5-of-9 and was a perfect 2-of-2 on shots from downtown. Whitted was next with five points, and Allison, Sells, and Destyne Middlebrooks each aided with four points, respectively. McClellan and Ashli Chew added one three pointer apiece for three points each.
The Koalas managed the first basket of the game and took the early edge at 4-3 before Allison made an easy shot inside for a 5-4 Lion’s lead, which was a lead that wouldn’t be surrendered for the duration of the meeting. As Bryan and Columbia were leveled 7-7 four minutes into the first quarter, it lasted for only a few seconds when Allison scored to make it 9-7 and Billingsby followed with a score underneath and trey to start a 15-0 run to end the opening period. When the first quarter came to a close, the Lions had clawed their way to a comfortable 22-7 lead.
The deficit only grew in the second quarter as Bryan outscored Columbia 25-12 and was highlighted by four of Levi’s three-pointers, which put the Lions ahead 47-19 heading into the break.
Bryan brought their lead into the 30’s when seven minutes were remaining in the third quarter and they were ahead 54-28, Billingsby sparked an 11-0 run with an unassisted score. McClellan found Smith afterwards for a made shot from deep, Levi added two points, Smith scored inside off a pass from Talley, and Levi made two free throws bringing the score to 65-28. The Koalas were able to outscore the Lions in the final two minutes of the third quarter, but Bryan’s lead proved too large as they still had a 33-point edge at 68-35.
It wasn’t until midway through the final quarter that Columbia broke their silence as Bryan opened the period with 12 unanswered points capped by Chew’s lone three-pointer for the Lion’s largest lead of the game, 45 points, 80-35. Foul shots by Columbia dropped Bryan’s lead into the 30’s in the final minutes, but the Lions ended the game with a 41-point edge at 86-45 with the help of last-second baskets from Sells and Middlebrooks.
“We really executed our defensive game plan tonight from the opening tip, which spurred our offense,” said Bryan Head Women’s Basketball Coach, Jason Smith. “We shot it really well tonight. It was great to see Amber re-gain some confidence and have a career night. We now look to gain some momentum to finish off our first semester schedule this Saturday. Putting together back-to-back wins is our next goal.”
The Lions turn their direction towards their last AAC matchup of the semester when they travel to St. Andrews University (N.C.) on Saturday, Dec. 10, with tipoff set for 12 p.m.
For the full Bryan Lions Women’s Basketball schedule, click here.
Written by Wesley Sanders, Sports Information Director