HICKORY, N.C. — The return of sophomore guard Zacharyia Esmon sparked 19th-ranked Walters State Tuesday afternoon to snap a two-game losing skid, as the Lady Senators defeated Catawba Valley for the second time in a week.
Esmon, who missed the first three games of 2019 with a sprained knee, scored 13 points, including a pair of 3-pointers in the second period, to help Walters State take the lead for good in a 65-46 victory inside the Tarlton Complex.
With the win, WSCC improved to 12-4 on the season after dropping six spots in the NJCAA Division I National Poll earlier in the afternoon. The loss dropped the Red Hawks, an NJCAA Division II member, to 7-4 on the year.
The Lady Senators never led in the first period, as the Red Hawks opened up an 8-2 lead and hit all eight free throw attempts in the opening session to build a 12-8 margin by the end of the opening 10 minutes.
The second period was a different story, as Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu got Walters State rolling by scoring 6 points in an opening 8-2 run to give the Lady Senators their first lead, 16-14. Catawba Valley briefly tied it, but a bucket from Derrinesha Jackson, followed by four free throws from Mendjiadeu wrapped around a bucket by Brianna Dixon gave WSCC a 24-16 advantage.
The Red Hawks cut it back to four, but Esmon nailed a pair of triples late in the half to build the margin to 31-21 by halftime.
Walters State shot right at 50 percent (11 of 22) in the opening half, making 3 of 10 from long range and 6 of 9 at the charity stripe to help overcome a dozen first half turnovers. Mendjiadeu had 10 points in the half, followed by Esmon with 8, Dixon with 6, Diamond Forrest with 5 and Jackson with 2.
The Red Hawks shot just 22.7 percent (5 of 22) from the floor in the half, making only 1 of 6 from 3-point land and 10 of 12 on free tosses. Catawba Valley also had 15 turnovers in the half. Danielle Rainey led the home team with 7 points in the opening 20 minutes.
Jamya Rogers had two big shots go down in the third for WSCC, as she made a layup off a steal from Mendjiadeu and added a 3-pointer to spark a 12-2 run to close the frame. The Lady Senators went from leading 14 to holding a 53-29 lead entering the fourth after the run, as Walters State held a 22-8 scoring advantage in the stanza.
The Red Hawks held a 17-12 scoring edge in the final 10 minutes behind 8 points from Milequa Eason, but they never got closer than the final margin.
Walters State shot 55.8 percent (24 of 43) from the field in the win, making 7 of 17 from downtown and 10 of 15 at the stripe. Despite having 21 turnovers, the Lady Senators did tally 20 assists on the 24 made field goals, led by Jalayah Manning with 7 assists in the win.
Mendjiadeu led a balanced effort for WSCC with 14 points and 5 rebounds, while Forrest added 14 points, Esmon had 13, Dixon totaled 11, Jackson had 6, Rogers finished with 5 and Teija Wareham closed the scoring with 2.
Catawba Valley shot just 28.8 percent (15 of 52) from the field, making 2 of 9 from long range and 14 of 16 at the free throw line while also committing 24 turnovers in the contest. Eason and Ivy Eller paced the home team with 8 points each in the loss.
The five-game road trip for the Lady Senators will continue this weekend with games against Tennessee Community College Athletic Association rivals Volunteer State and Motlow State. Tipoff at Vol State in Gallatin on Friday is set for 6:30 p.m. before traveling to Lynchburg to take on Motlow State on Saturday at 3 p.m.