PULASKI, Tenn. - After posting dominating victories in their previous two outings, Martin Methodist perhaps saved its most impressive performance of all for Thursday night in a 68-59 victory over No. 13 Bethel (Tenn.) University.
Opening the game on an 8-0 run, the RedHawks (12-12, 2-1 TranSouth) began to assert themselves as the first half moved along, quickly amassing a 19-6 lead at the 11:08 mark of the first period. The RedHawk lead would balloon to as many as 17 before heading into the locker room with a 68-59 halftime advantage.
In the second period, however, the RedHawks had to fend off a strong effort from the Lady Wildcats (16-6, 1-2), who slowly began to chip away at the RedHawk lead. After a 10-0 Lady Wildcat run trimmed the advantage to 51-47 with 5:53 left to play, the RedHawks traded several buckets with the Lady Wildcats before pulling back ahead by as many as 13 points. Thanks to timely baskets as well as clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch, the RedHawks were able to keep the Lady Wildcats at bay and preserve the nine-point victory.
"I was extremely proud of the way our team executed tonight," RedHawks head coach Jamy Bechler said. "I was also proud of the way we approached the game. Our last few days of preparation have been great and tonight was a direct reflection of that. From top to bottom, we received great efforts from virtually every player."
After becoming the school's first-ever 1,000-point, 500-assist club member in Monday's win over Fisk (Tenn.) University, Jessy Christopher stole the show offensively Thursday, racking up 22 points while tracking down nine rebounds. The senior guard was especially effective at the line down the stretch, sinking 8-of-13 free throws to help the RedHawks pull off the upset.
Joining Christopher in double-digits was Kyra Knight, who finished with 15 points on an impressive 5-of-6 shooting effort. The junior forward also added five points at the free-throw line and finished one rebound shy of her sixth double-double of the season. Knight's numbers were especially impressive considering most of her night was spent guarding UT-Martin transfer Perica Glenn.
Erika Bullock also finished one rebound shy of double-digits, tracking down a career-high nine boards in the victory as the RedHawks enjoyed a 47-28 rebound advantage over the Lady Wildcats. Keri O'Neal finished just outside double-figures with eight points and six rebounds down low for the RedHawks.
"Erika and Keri got us going with their play on the boards early," Bechler said. "When Bethel began to make their runs in the first and second half, our bigs stepped up and made some great plays to get us timely second chance points. Kyra was fantastic down low for us as well."
As a team, the RedHawks finished 20-of-54 from the floor, but held a normally sharp-shooting Lady Wildcat bunch to just 35.8 percent from the floor, including a paltry 2-of-18 from beyond the arc.
Glenn posted 20 points on a 7-of-12 shooting effort to lead the Lady Wildcats, who were plagued by foul trouble for much of the contest. Jasmine Taylor, who fouled out late in the game, added 11 points in the loss.
With the win, the RedHawks moved into sole possession of second place in the TranSouth. The win also marked the second consecutive season the RedHawks knocked off the Lady Wildcats at home after claiming a 77-74 victory a year ago. The win also marked the second straight home win over a ranked opponent for the RedHawks, who knocked off then-No. 25 Lyon (Ark.) College.
The RedHawks return to action Saturday when they host Blue Mountain (Miss.) College for Homecoming in another pivotal TranSouth showdown. Tipoff in Saturday's game is set for 2 p.m. in the Curry Christian Life Center.