by Benny Benton
WILSON, N.C. – Barton College redshirt senior Alex Kimble and junior Dinah Neal both scored a career-high 27 points to lead the Lady Bulldogs past visiting Coker College, 81-71, in overtime Tuesday night in Wilson Gymnasium.
The win was Barton's third in a row to begin the season, all against South Atlantic Conference competition. Coker fell to 1-2 on the young season with the loss.
Kimble and Neal did most of their damage from the free throw line. Neal made 14 straight before her only miss of the night, and finished the contest 17 of 18 from the stripe. Kimble sank 10 of her 12 free throws for the Lady Bulldogs, which made 30 of 34 from the line (88 percent) as a team.
Neal, a resident of Browns Summit, N.C., also matched a career-high with six steals, while Kimble, a resident of Virginia Beach, Va., added five rebounds.
The Cobras were paced by 19 points from sophomore Hayley Kropp, and 18 points and eight rebounds from senior Iresha Cooper. Erin Houser chipped in 15 points for Coker, and Janea Williams contributed 10 points and 12 boards.
Barton never trailed in the overtime period, scoring the first five points on a 3-pointer by Jackson and a pair of free throws by Neal following a steal.
Coker climbed back within two points on two occasions, but both times Kimble answered for Barton, the first time with a pair of free throws and the second time on a 3-pointer off a nice pass from Jackson with 1:09 left in OT. The latter basket made the score 76-71, and the Cobras missed their final four shots attempts while trying to rally.
Both teams struggled with missed shots and turnovers. Barton shot 39 percent from the field (29 of 75) and Coker shot 36 percent (22 of 61). Both turned the ball over 25 times. For the Lady Bulldogs, that number nearly matched the total of their first two games combined, 29.
Barton appeared ready to roll to its third straight win, opening the contest on a 16-2 run. The Lady Bulldogs shot 61 percent from the field in the first quarter (8 of 13) while holding Coker to just 29 percent (5 of 17) in taking a 24-12 advantage after one period.
However, those numbers reversed themselves in the second quarter, as Coker made 9 of 19 from the floor (47 percent) and BC managed just 3 of 14 (21 percent). Cooper scored six points for the Cobras in the quarter, and Houser and Sydney Shull each added five as Coker rallied to send the game to intermission tied at 33-all.
After Coker held a small lead early in the third quarter, Barton pulled away again to a seven-point cushion at 52-45 on a steal and three-point play by Neal with 2:58 left in the period.
The Lady Bulldogs led 56-51 entering the fourth quarter, but consecutive 3-pointers by Kropp, a layup by Cooper after a BC turnover, and a jumper by Houser following a missed shot by Barton put Coker up three, 61-58, with 6:26 to play.
The Cobras took their biggest lead of the night, five points, at 65-60 on a layup by Kropp with 4:24 to go. Neither team could take advantage of opportunities until Kimble drained the clutch 3-pointer with 1:21 remaining, cutting the margin to two at 65-62.
Barton forced a turnover on Coker's next possession, and Kimble made a layup off an assist by Jackson to tie the game at 65-all with 1:08 to play in regulation. With the game still tied at that score, Coker's Aloni McFarland was fouled with eight seconds remaining, giving the Cobras a chance to take the lead. But McFarland missed both free throws, and BC turned the ball over with three seconds to go, sending the game to an extra period.
With the win, Barton starts the season 3-0 for the first time since the 2010-11 campaign. The Lady Bulldogs hope to continue that streak this weekend at the NGU Nighthawk Classic in Dahlonega, Ga. Barton will face Georgia College on Friday afternoon before facing host University of North Georgia on Saturday.