PENSACOLA, Fla. – Junior guard Sierra Rollins scored a season-high 17 points and grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds as Harding held on to defeat District of Columbia 57-54 in the opening round of the West Florida Classic on Thursday afternoon.
Rollins hit 5-of-6 attempts from the field and 6-of-7 free throw attempts. Her 17 rebounds were the most by a Lady Bison since senior guard Bailey St. Clair grabbed the same total against Central Baptist last seaosn.
The Lady Bisons jumped out to a 9-0 lead and forced six turnovers in the first four minutes of the game before taking their largest lead at 19 points with 8:13 remaining in the first half. Harding took a 37-20 lead into halftime.
In the second period, District of Columbia (7-5) slowly began to crawl back into the game.
With 5:33 remaining, Jasmine Rich hit a 3-pointer that pulled the Firebirds to within five. District of Columbia cut the lead to four before senior guard Brittany Gottsponer answered back for the Lady Bisons by hitting a 3-pointer.
With 59 seconds remaining, Rich hit another 3-pointer to get the Firebirds within one but Rollins’ layup with 35 seconds left pushed the Harding lead to three. Rich missed a 3-pointer and immediately fouled Gottsponer, who missed both free throws with 10 seconds remaining. District of Columbia had two opportunities to tie the game but couldn’t get either shot to fall.
Senior forward Kallie Bartee made her second career start and tied a career high with 14 points.
Jamila Bonner led District of Columbia with 12 points. Kendra Johnson added 10 points and seven steals for the Firebirds. Lillian McGill grabbed a team-high 16 rebounds, including nine on the offensive end.
Neither team shot well from behind the 3-point line. Harding only hit 5-of-17 (29.4 percent) and District of Columbia hit 7-of-28 (25.0 percent) while Harding won on the boards 44-40.
The Firebirds forced 36 Lady Bison turnovers on 23 steals.