Hornets’ rally falls short

By Jeff Nations

WINCHESTER –The positives were plain to see for Shenandoah University women’s basketball coach C.K. Calhoun on Tuesday night.

The Hornets got a career scoring effort from sophomore guard Imani Heggins, spearheading one of the highest point totals the team has posted all season.

Shenandoah also showed no quit in twice rallying from double-digit deficits against visiting Randolph-Macon College on Tuesday’s Old Dominion Athletic Conference matchup.

So the production was there, and the grit was there, too. It still wasn’t enough to derail the high-scoring Yellow Jackets, who weathered SU’s comebacks to pick up an 86-77 victory at Shingleton Gymnasium.

“That’s one thing about us — we’re always trying to come back,” Heggins said. “If we could initially start off and be in the lead, then you wouldn’t have to really worry about coming back.”

That was a problem on Tuesday, as Randolph-Macon (17-5, 10-3 ODAC) built a 13-point lead at 42-29 heading into the halftime break. The Yellow Jackets, who entered the night leading the conference in scoring with 88.8 points per game, accomplished their dual goals of attacking the basket with slashing drives through the paint and tagging the Hornets with early foul trouble.

Shenandoah junior forward Holly Chittenden picked up her second foul just three minutes into the game, and that ripple effect impacted SU’s defense the rest of the first half.

“She can play with two, but the confidence when she doesn’t have three is one of those things where she’ll grind it out in the second half on the defensive end when she only has two,” Hornets coach C.K.. Calhoun said of Chittenden, who played sparingly in the first half after getting her second foul with 17:43 left on the clock.

Shenandoah (8-14, 5-8 ODAC) trailed by as many as 15 early in the second half before clamping down on defense. The Hornets held Randolph-Macon to just three points over a five-minute span to whittle the deficit down to four points at 56-52 after Chittenden’s jumper with 10:01 to go.

The Yellow Jackets led by only three minutes later when Chittenden sank a free throw to make it 58-55. Randolph-Macon answered with a run of its own, outscoring the Hornets 19-6 to surge back ahead by 16 with five minutes to play.

“We came out in a five-minute segment and they only scored three points,” Calhoun said. “Then the next five, they scored 21. A team like that, they can get on those runs whether it’s Sarah Parsons or Taylor Huber — you can name all of them out there.”

Parsons (25 points) and Huber (24 points) did plenty of damage on the offensive end, and their efforts in the press helped scuttle another SU rally later in the second quarter.

Heggins, who finished with a career-high 32 points and added 12 rebounds for a double-double, converted the layup off teammate Ashley McGhee’s steal to cut the deficit back to six at 80-74 with 2:08 to play.

“I thought she was attacking north to south to the basket,” Calhoun said of Heggins. “She was getting to the rim. She wasn’t settling for an outside jumper one-on-one. And when she was getting a jumper, it was in stride and catch-and-shoot. We know she can do this. It’s one of those things where can we make sure she stays out of foul trouble and secondly can she do it consistently from game to game.”

Huber answered with a jumper, R-MC senior Paige Mills (a Sherando graduate) hit a free throw, Parsons came up with a steal and a layup, and Katie Anderson sank another free throw to cap a decisive 6-0 run that put the game away.

“I thought that Shenandoah did a great job of defending us,” Randolph-Macon coach Carroll LaHaye said. “We lead the conference in points scored and we lead the conference in points allowed, so it’s kind of a conflicting stat. It is what it is. I’m not proud of the fact that we don’t play defense very well, but that’s where we are.”

The press did come up with some big turnovers late for the Yellow Jackets. Parsons and Huber had four steals each, helping Randolph-Macon avenge last season’s overtime loss to the Hornets in Winchester.

“One of our main focuses this year has been on defense because that’s been a problem for us,” Huber said. “We’re averaging in the 80s or 90s, but we’re also letting teams score way above their average.”

Anderson added 14 points and Stephanie Staples came off the bench to chip in 10 for Randolph-Macon.

Crystal Petrus finished with 23 points and Chittenden had nine in limited minutes for the Hornets, who were missing starting point guard Tiffany Bauer for the second straight game due to injury. Calhoun expects her back this weekend for SU’s home game against Randolph College on Saturday.

Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or jnations@nvdaily.com>