GREENWOOD – Haylee Lepaio posted a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds as Newberry College beat 20th-ranked Lander 59-51 Tuesday night in the women's basketball season opener for both teams.
Lepaio, a 6-foot-2 sophomore post player, made seven of 10 shots from the floor to lead the Wolves, who are 1-0.
The Lady Bearcats, with only one returning player from last year's national Elite Eight team, was led by junior guard Aarika Judge's 15 points. Junior point guard Lea Saunders added 12 points, a game-high six assists and six rebounds for Lander (0-1).
Precious Elkins, Lander's only senior and only returning player, added nine points while freshman post McKale Hardy led the team with eight rebounds and four steals.
Zara Pearson added 13 points for Newberry, including four of four free throws in the final 37 seconds. Samantha Creed added 12 points while leading the Wolves with five assists. Ellie Gleeson had eight rebounds for Newberry.
The Lady Bearcats struggled shooting the ball, making only 20 of 60 shots (33 percent) from the floor including seven of 27 from 3-point range (26 percent). Lander also struggled from the free-throw line, hitting four of 11 (36 percent).
Newberry made 22 of 57 shots from the floor (39 percent), 10 of 14 free throws (71 percent) and five of 16 from behind the arc (31 percent) while having a slight 41-39 edge on the boards.
The Lady Bearcats committed 14 turnovers to Newberry's 13.
Lander's roster includes nine freshmen, a sophomore who is out with an injury and two in-coming juniors. The team lost almost its entire roster from last year's team that went all the way to the NCAA Division II quarterfinals in San Antonio, Texas.
But a familiar name led the scoring for Lander with Aarika Judge being Jasmine Judge's younger sister.
The Lady Bearcats trailed 25-23 at halftime, tied the game once in the second half, but was never able to take a lead after the break.
Lander had missed 19 of 21 shots during a 15-minute stretch that consumed the last eight-plus minutes of the first half through the first six-plus minutes of the second half and fell behind by nine points, 34-25. But the Lady Bearcats began to make a push with less than 14 minutes left in the game.
Hardy's layup off a nice entry pass from Judge ended a 9-0 Newberry run, Judge hit a 3 during Lander's next possession, and Elkins made one of two free throws to pull Lander within a possession at 34-31 with 12:21 to go.
Pearson's 3 and Tasia Holdorf's layup helped the Wolves extend their lead back to eight, 41-33, at the 10:17 mark. But Saunders helped the Lady Bearcats pull within two by hitting a 3, passing to Elkins for a layup, and making another 3 to cut the gap to 43-41 with 8:26 to go.
But Creed made a pair of big baskets for Newberry, hitting a 3 and a put-back of Gleeson's miss to start a 9-2 Wolves run. Lepaio's jumper extended Newberry's lead back to nine, 52-43, with 5:17 left.
Hardy's jumper with 3:24 to go pulled Lander within 52-46. But Gleeson's put-back restored Newberry's lead back to eight, 54-46, with 2:17 left.
Elkins scored in the paint to pull the Lady Bearcats within six again at the two-minute mark. Then Lander forced a shot-clock violation with 1:27 left. But the Lady Bearcats were called for an offensive foul to end their possession, and Newberry ran more than 40 seconds off the clock before Pearson's free throws extended the lead to 56-48.
Judge's off-balance 3 with 21 seconds left was not enough for Lander as the Wolves were able to put the game away at the line.
Lander put together an early 6-0 run to take a 13-7 lead, with Saunders hitting a 3 to break a 7-all tie, Elkins scoring inside off a Saunders assist, and Elkins adding a free throw for the six-point advantage with 12:25 left. It would be Lander's largest lead of the game.
Saunders hit another 3 for a 17-12 lead, and the Lady Bearcats answered a 5-0 Newberry run when Kenyona Armstrong stole the ball near mid-court and drove in for a layup, giving Lander a 19-17 advantage with 8:34 left.
But Newberry's Lepaio hit three mid-range jumpers in a row to give the visitors a 23-19 lead with 6:05 to go. The Wolves would not trail again.
But while the Lady Bearcats went cold, so did Newberry. Lander ended a six-minute scoring drought when Briana Wade hit a layup off a pass from Ashleigh Zandi to pull the Lady Bearcats within 23-21 at the 2:24 mark. Lander had missed 10 shots in a row.
The Wolves ended their own scoring drought of almost six minutes on Kendra Brown's layup with 39 seconds left in the first half, snapping an 0-for-8 shooting slump.
Hardy scored in the paint with 18 seconds remaining to pull Lander within 25-23 at halftime.
The two teams were a combined 18-for-58 shooting in the first half with the Lady Bearcats making nine of 30, including only three of 15 behind the arc. Newberry made just nine of 28 in the first half.
Judge scored in the opening seconds of the second half, tying the game at 25-all. But Lander would miss its next seven shots, and the Wolves scored nine unanswered points for a 34-25 lead with 16:18 left. Creed scored twice on fast-break layups during Newberry's run.