Bears get win over Cumberland in conference opener

The No. 7-ranked women’s basketball program at Shawnee State posted its eighth double-digit victory of the 2019-20 season as the Bears gritted out a 77-69 Mid-South Conference victory over the Cumberland (Tenn.) Phoenix on Thursday evening at Waller Gymnasium in Portsmouth.

Bailey Cummins’ full stat sheet of 23 points, 10 assists, seven steals, and seven rebounds, along with 10 points and two steals from Brandie Snow and an excellent effort off of the bench from Natalie Zuchowski, Hagen Schaefer, Evelyn Oktavec, and Abbie Kallner, among others, allowed SSU (10-1, 1-0 Mid-South) to pull away in the second half, with the Bears eventually taking as much as a 71-54 lead before collecting the 77-69 win.

At the beginning of the affair, Shawnee State had trouble finding the bottom of the basket as the Bears shot 3-of-13 to begin the contest. However, after being tied at a 5-5 tally with 6:53 left to play in the first quarter, the Bears began to open the margin up.

With 6:42 left in the first quarter of play, a runner from Cummins allowed the Bears to go on a 14-4 spurt to begin the contest, with Cummins nailing a three from the top of the circle with 3:53 to play in the opening quarter and Snow adding in six straight points to push the lead out to a 19-5 margin. The Phoenix (4-5, 0-1 MSC), however, closed the gap on the Bears to end the frame, with six points by Ashlyn Pittman off of the bench allowing Cumberland to close within 21-15 after a quarter of play.

Cumberland closed to within 23-19 on a bucket from Katherine Griffith with 7:03 to go in the first half and kept the pressure on with a Abby Morgan basket with 5:46 remaining before eventually cutting the lead to a 25-22 margin with 4:03 to play in the opening half.

However, two three-pointers by Oktavec — one with 3:47 to play in the same period and the second with 2:55 to go in the first two stanzas — and six consecutive SSU points from Carson Roney, including a three-pointer with 3.5 seconds to go, allowed Shawnee State to maintain its lead with the Bears taking a 38-32 advantage heading into the halftime break.

In the second half, Cumberland rallied to with a bucket, with Kerrice Watson collecting on a three-pointer with 5:34 to play in the third quarter to cut the SSU lead to a 41-39 count.

However, Oktavec’s third three-ball of the contest allowed Shawnee State to open the advantage up as the Bears took a 44-41 lead with 4:33 left in the third quarter of action, with the Bears maintaing that lead until Cummins hit a pair of free throws with 3:05 remaining in the third after being fouled on a fast break. Zuchowski scored two consecutive times on Cumberland miscues, and before one could blink, Shawnee State had accumulated a three-possession lead that lasted all the way to the end of the quarter with the Bears leading by eight, 53-45, heading into the game’s final 10 minutes of action.

Shawnee State held off all Cumberland challenges from that point forward en route to the victory as a Cummins trey with 7:15 to go, a Zuchowski bucket on the same possession following a pushoff that led to a five-point swing, and five straight points from Cummins in a 30-second span allowed the Bears to run away with the victory.

For the contest, the dynamic duo of Cummins and Snow were joined by Oktavec, who scored 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting from the field, 3-of-4 from the three-point line, and 2-of-2 from the free throw line, and Zuchowski, who scored eight points on 4-of-5 shooting.

The Bears will be back in action on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. when Shawnee State plays Life (Ga.) in the first game of a Mid-South Conference doubleheader.

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