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The Miles women's basketball team continued its quest for a top seed in next month's Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament with a dominant 75-56 win over league title contender Savannah State Wednesday night at Knox-Windham Gymnasium.
The Lady Bears (15-6, 10-3 SIAC West) rebounded from a tough road loss at Lane with their 11th consecutive home victory. An offensive spurt in the first half gave them the lead for good and when the Tigers (12-6, 7-6 SIAC East) got close in the second half, Miles used a shutdown defensive effort to put the game out of reach.
After getting off to a good start, Miles went cold midway through the first quarter. The Lady Bears had a stretch where they missed 8-of-9 shots from the field and turned the ball over twice as SSU took a five-point lead with four minutes left in the period. But Miles has one of the deepest teams in the SIAC and when head coach Phillip Wallace, Jr. went to his bench, the Tigers couldn't keep up.
Led by Raiana Johnson, Victoria Sutton and Kierra Patrick, the Lady Bears started pounding the boards on both ends of the floor and turned up the pressure on the defensive end. Johnson, who set season highs in points (11), rebounds (16), assists (5), and steals (3) to go along with 3 blocks, scored on back-to-back possessions to help Miles retake the lead with 2:29 left in the first. A late 3-pointer by Amya Bryant gave the team an 18-14 lead at the end of the quarter and when Najla Shamsid-Deen drained a 3-ball to open the second quarter, the Lady Bears had run off 12 straight points and ultimately held SSU scoreless for more than five minutes.
Mya Millner (9 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists) would score five straight points to push the lead into double figures for the first time three minutes into the second quarter. Three minutes later, the Tigers would cut the deficit to six points before the Lady Bears opened their biggest lead of the half. With Jaylen Snipes at the controls, she found Bryant and Sutton open for 3-pointers that sandwiched a Patrick bucket on three consecutive possessions that made the score 36-22 three minutes before halftime. Snipes had four assists and the Lady Bears finished with 23 assists on 29 made baskets - a season high.
Miles led 38-30 at the half but when Le'Andrea Gillis scored with 35 seconds left in the third quarter, the SSU deficit was just 53-50. But the Lady Bears put the game on ice with a scintillating defensive effort in the fourth quarter. The Tigers had just one made field goal over the first seven minutes of the final period and Miles forced more turnovers (six) than missed shots (five). The Lady Bears capitalized on the offensive end, going on a 20-3 run that put the game out of reach. Shamsid-Deen scored nine points during the run and 12 of her season-high 15 points (one off her career high) in the fourth quarter.
Gillis (18 points, 6 rebounds), Robi Allen (15 points), and Alexus Bryant (10 points, 9 rebounds) were the top performers for Savannah State. Patrick (10 points, 4 rebounds), Sutton (8 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists), and Sakina Wynn (9 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists) were among the contributors for Miles, which travels to Central State on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for noon.