Lady Crusaders

UMHB’s Haven Neal (34) shoots over Belhaven’s Alexis Caldwell during the Lady Crusaders’ 76-61 victory Saturday.

Michael Miller

BELTON — Kendall Rollins was a model of efficiency for Mary Hardin-Baylor on Saturday afternoon, providing the Lady Crusaders with steady production during their up-and-down but overall effective performance in a 76-61 victory over Belhaven at Mayborn Campus Center.

The 6-foot sophomore guard recorded a double-double, finishing with 25 points in 25 minutes of playing time that included 10 rebounds. Her effort helped UMHB (13-2, 6-1 American Southwest Conference) stretch its win streak to nine games and was further proof that Rollins — last year’s ASC West Division Newcomer of the Year — continues to expand her skill set.

“Experience has helped a lot. I also trained almost every single day this past summer with my trainer, working on double moves and things like that,” said Rollins, who scored 13 points in the first half, 12 in the second and was 9-of-13 from the field, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range. “I don’t know if I’m that much of a better player this year, but I have more experience at the collegiate level.”

To hear her coach tell it, she simply keeps improving.

“She understands more this year how to play off the dribble. She was solid on the dribble penetration last year, but now she can shoot the three off the dribble as well,” UMHB coach Mark Morefield said.

UMHB owned a 41-22 lead at intermission following a first half in which Belhaven missed its first nine shots and was only 6-of-33 (18 percent) from the floor.

Rollins had seven points in the Lady Crusaders’ game-opening 12-0 run. After the Blazers (1-12, 1-5) cut the gap to 16-12 by the end of the first quarter, Hailey Celsur and Kelsey VanPelt came off the bench to hit 3-pointers and fuel an 11-0 UMHB surge. Two baseline drives by Hannah Holt pushed the Lady Crusaders’ lead to 22 points with 2:12 left in the opening half.

UMHB stretched its advantage to as many as 27 points only 3 minutes into the third quarter before Belhaven — coming off Thursday’s 62-59 win at Concordia Texas for its first victory of the season following 11 straight losses — managed to mount a rally against some of the Lady Crusaders’ reserves.

The Blazers methodically whittled their way to within eight points at 66-58 with 2½ minutes to go in the fourth, before Rollins re-entered the game and buried a 3 to stem the tide.

“We were in a position to give some other players a chance to see what they could do. We needed to evaluate some things with those players,” Morefield said. “Obviously, you don’t want to lose a lead that large, but it was opportunity to give those players chance. We did that, and then we put some starters back in to get the lead back up to where we wanted it to be.”

Holt also had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Lady Crusaders, who got 11 points from Haven Neal. Alexis Caldwell and Brittany Ford scored 11 each for the Blazers, who shot only 28 percent (19-of-67) overall.

The win pushed UMHB to the top of the ASC West standings — a half-game ahead of Howard Payne and a full game in front of McMurry — prior to the Lady Crusaders’ trip to Abilene for games against Hardin-Simmons on Thursday and McMurry next Saturday.

“The pressure is always there, and this coming week will be no different,” Rollins said.

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