GREENWOOD – The Lander women's basketball team pulled away from USC Aiken in the second half, tying the program record for most Peach Belt Conference wins by beating the Pacers 83-64 Saturday afternoon at Horne Arena.
The Bearcats have now won 11 of their last 12 games, improving to 17-3 in the PBC and 20-6 overall. Lander also won 17 Peach Belt games in 2009-10 and again last season.
The Bearcats swept their two games this season against USC Aiken, which fell to 14-12 overall and 10-10 in the league. Lander, which outscored the Pacers 38-15 over the game's final 14 minutes Saturday, has won six of its last seven against the Pacers.
"The biggest focus for us right now," said head coach Kevin Pederson, "is 80 minutes. We want to make the most of those 80 minutes we have left in this [regular] season."
The Bearcats will play at North Georgia Wednesday night in a game that will likely decide the Peach Belt regular season championship. North Georgia is also 17-3 in the conference, with one of its losses coming at Lander.
Symone Starks had a big all-around game for Lander with a double-double. She scored 19 points and had a game-high 12 rebounds while leading the hosts with six steals and adding four assists.
Miriam Recarte scored nine of her 11 points in the fourth quarter while contributing six rebounds, four blocked shots and four assists for the Bearcats.
Melyk Taouil led USC Aiken with a double-double, scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 boards. Alex Canady also had 14 points for the Pacers, Kyrie' Chandler scored 13 points and Madison Williams led the visitors with seven assists.
The Bearcats scored the final eight points of the first quarter, taking an 18-7 lead going into the second period. Lander forced nine turnovers in the opening quarter and Recarte had three blocked shots.
USC Aiken scored to end a run of 12 unanswered Bearcat points. But McKenith and Harris each hit threes from the left side and McKenith added a floater in the lane, increasing Lander's lead to 30-9 at the 7:40 mark.
The Pacers went on a 10-0 run, pulling within 30-20 with 4:30 to go on Chandler's three from the left wing.
After the Bearcats called a timeout, McKenith made a driving layup at the 3:58 mark to end a scoreless stretch of nearly four minutes. Seconds later, Harris collected a back-court steal and passed to Starks for a layup. McKenith hit a three on Lander's next possession for a 37-20 lead with 3:15 left.
The Bearcats didn't score again in the first half but still held a 37-23 lead at the break.
Lander opened the second half by scoring first. But USC Aiken scored the game's next nine points, pulling with 39-32 with 7:29 left in the third quarter on Kwajelin Farrar's basket. Taouil's put-back cut the Pacer deficit to 45-39 with 4:13 to go.
The Bearcats held USC Aiken to just one basket the rest of the third period and led 53-42 going into the fourth.
Starks converted a three-point play and added a steal and layup, Recarte nailed a three-pointer and another basket, and McKenith scored twice as Lander extended its advantage to 67-49 with 6:18 left.
The Bearcats took their first 20-point lead of the second half when Starks rebounded Harris's missed three-point attempt and laid it in, making it 71-51 with 4:38 to go.
Harris's three from the right corner increased Lander's lead to 81-60 with 1:40 left.