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ECU women rally for opening win

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East Carolina's Jade Lewis (24) celebrates from the bench during a game against Maryland Eastern-Shore on Nov. 6, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

With veteran returning players Alex Frazier, Dominique Claytor and Ariyana Williams already out with injuries to start the season, East Carolina’s women’s basketball team almost faced another untimely potential injury when sharpshooting newcomer Jade Lewis collided with a teammate while celebrating her flurry of 3-pointers during the second quarter Tuesday night.

Lewis was sidelined for the rest of the quarter, but she returned to begin the third and helped the Pirates blitz visiting Maryland-Eastern Shore during the second half to score an 84-69 victory on opening night in Minges Coliseum.

After a controversial preseason that included head coach Heather Macy’s resignation, two first-year players leaving the team and Chad Killinger taking over as interim coach, the Pirates began their 50th season by winning their seventh straight season-opening game.

Lewis finished with 16 points and went 4-of-7 from 3-point range, bested by teammate and fellow wing Raven Johnson with her 4-of-5 mark from the outside and 19 points. Returning starting point guard Lashonda Monk had 19 points, five assists and four rebounds.

“That was one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen in my life. I turned around and (Lewis) was bleeding,” Killinger said of the second quarter celebration-turned-scary incident. “I guess she got hit by an elbow. … I told them at halftime that this is fairly unusual stuff and it was just a freak thing that happened, but I do think that we wore them down a little bit during the rest of the game and they started missing a lot of shots. They were settling for a lot 3s, which is kind of what we wanted them to do.”

Eastern Shore led by as many as six points during the second quarter. ECU held a 35-34 edge at halftime, then nearly doubled its scoring output with a 25-16 advantage during the third quarter.

The big rally came after the Hawks were up 43-41.

Lewis hit a 3-pointer to make it 44-43 and give ECU its final lead with 4:31 remaining in the third.

Highlights from there included Johnson’s 3 for a 49-43 lead, Salita Greene dropping in a transition bucket on an assist from Johnson and Johnson making a layup of her own after Monk’s pass for a 60-50 lead to take to the final quarter. The Pirates played all 10 of the players they had available and finished with a 35-11 advantage in bench points.

Their lead grew to as large as 22 points in the fourth.

“Of course we have faced a lot of adversity,” Johnson said. “Most teams don’t experience that this early in the season, but this first game really meant a lot to us. We really needed to come out and make a statement.”

ECU’s first two shot attempts were 3-pointers, the second one banking in from the top of the key by Necole Hope for a 3-0 lead. Johnson scored seven points during the first quarter.

Lewis, a junior transfer from Northwest Florida State who was ranked as the No. 20 junior college prospect in the nation a year ago, sparked the Pirates during the second quarter when she hit three 3-pointers for a 30-27 edge. The final triple forced a Hawks’ timeout, which is when she was running off the court and accidentally banged into a teammate.

Eastern Shore’s Ciani Byrom was 5-of-11 from the field and had 14 points by halftime. She finished with 19.

Macy, who is the program’s all-time winningest coach, resigned on Oct. 17 amid an internal review led by the ECU athletics’ office of compliance.

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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