by John Hackney
WILSON, N.C.-Sophomore guard Nyeshea Willie scored a career-high 33 points Saturday night and Barton held visiting league leader North Greenville without a field goal for five minutes late in the game en route to a 75-64 Conference Carolinas Women's Basketball victory.
The Lady Bulldogs were entertaining new league member North Greenville in the "Dog House" for the first time, and it was a dogfight for much of the night. Barton bolted to a quick 16-5 lead, but the Crusaders claimed their first lead of the initial 20 minutes when guard Alisha Hope hit a jumper 47 seconds before the break for a 27-25 halftime lead.
The second stanza featured seven deadlocks, with the last one coming at 55-55 with 6:09 left. NGU had taken its final lead at 55-53 with 6:19 showing on a layup by Krisceda Cotton. Barton then clamped down defensively and kept pushing the ball on offense as it put together the decisive 19-3 run. During that span, North Greenville misfired on seven straight shots and committed three turnovers. Junior forward Shante Neal started the run with a layup, Willie cashed in two 3-point bombs off passes from Hunter and Barton hit 12 of 18 foul shots to put the game away.
When Timisty Nelson hit a follow shot with one minute left, the Crusaders had made their first field goal in more than five minutes.
Barton, the three-time defending Conference Carolinas regular-season champ, improved to 15-7 overall and 10-3 in the league after winning for the fifth time in its last six outings. North Greenville, which came into the contest with a half-game lead atop the conference standings and boasting a five-game win streak, slipped to 18-6 overall and 13-3 in league action.
Willie was 8-of-15 from the floor, including a scintillating 5-of-8 from downtown, and cashed in 12-of-18 free throws. She also logged three assists, two steals and one block. Hunter had 12 points and Neal nearly had a double-double with eight points and a team-best 10 boards.
For the Crusaders, Nelson was 6-of-15 from the floor and 8-of-9 from the line for 20 points. Hope had 11 points while Courtney Fiddle and Karly Stache tallied eight apiece.
Barton outscored the Crusaders 24-12 from the foul line and lost the rebounding battle 48-39. North Greenville hit 37.9 percent of its shots (25-of-66), compared to 23-of-59 (39 percent) for the Lady Bulldogs. Barton also finished 5-of-10 from beyond the 3-point arc and had 12 steals off 24 NGU turnovers.