|Hailey approaches career high but Niners fall|
ATLANTA - Senior Jennifer Hailey put the Charlotte 49ers on her back, tallying 13-straight points during a 13-minute second half stretch, but the Niners were unable to overcome Toledo Saturday afternoon, dropping a 76-66 decision during day one action at the GSU Holiday & Hoops Tournament in Atlanta.
Hailey ended up a point shy of her career-best output, collecting a game-high 26 points to go along with her nine rebounds, a blocked shot and steal in 33 minutes. She hit 10-of-18 field goals and 6-of-10 free throws and extended her consecutive games streak with at least one blocked shot to 23.
Classmate Jai Forney chipped in 14 points, a dozen after the break, while sophomore Hillary Sigmon reached double-figure scoring for the fourth-straight game with 12.
Junior Ny Hammonds, the nation's leader in assists per game, handed out eight of the team's 14 helpers with only one turnover. Senior Amanda Dowe overcame a sluggish shooting effort to haul in a 49ers-best 10 boards, although Charlotte (8-3) lost the battle on the glass for the first time this season, 44-35.
The Rockets, who are receiving votes in both national polls, won their 10th straight by feeding the ball to Yolanda Richardson for 24 points. She was joined in double figures by 10 points apiece from Inma Zanoguera and Naama Shafir.
Richardson also grabbed a team-high eight caroms, while Lecretia Smith and Kyle Baumgartner each picked up six boards.
In a highly-competitive, fast-paced game, the outcome was not decided until the final five minutes when Toledo (11-1) turned a two-possession difference into a double-digit lead over a three-minute period. Charlotte was trailing by four, 61-57, on a Hailey layup at 5:04 but the Rockets quickly answered with a Zanoguera triple from the corner and then used a top-of-the-key trey by Baumgartner to open an eight-point cushion, 67-59, with 4:13 left.
Despite Hailey doing her best to keep her team close, scoring five more 49ers points in the stretch, Charlotte was unable to cut into the deficit and began fouling to lengthen the game and put Toledo on the charity stripe. Because of the free throws, including four-straight Shafir charity tosses, the lead swelled to 12, 76-64, with 57.8 seconds remaining.
When Sigmon hit a running jumper at the 1:06 mark, it was the first non-Hailey points for the 49ers since Dowe went strong to the hoop at 13:06 for one of her only two field goals on the day.
After the Rockets started the game with the opening four points, Sigmon capped a 5-0 Niners spurt with a 3-pointer to give Charlotte its first lead. The 49ers were able to widen the margin to five, 11-6, following a baseline jumper from hometown freshman Alexis Alexander at the 14:55 mark.
Toledo countered with a 10-2 run, covering nearly five minutes, as Smith provided UT with the 16-13 edge at 10:04. After the Rockets increased their advantage to five, 20-15, Charlotte rattled off an 8-0 streak, featuring four points from Hammonds, to take a 23-20 lead at 5:01 and forcing Toledo to call a timeout.
The see-saw first half featured two more tied scores down the stretch but Hammonds hit another bucket with 38 seconds to go to lift the 49ers on top entering the break, 30-28.
It remained a back-and-forth battle during the early stretches of the second half, as Charlotte went to Hailey for its points and Toledo turned to Richardson. The low-block battle highlighted a total of 82 combined points in the paint.
The game remained close until the final five minutes when the Rockets were able to pull away to earn their third win in as many tries in the all-time series.
The 49ers will return action at 2 p.m. Sunday to conclude tournament action in the consolation matchup with Mississippi Valley State, who dropped a 76-60 decision to host Georgia State in Saturday's first contest.
Sunday's game can be heard on Charlotte49ers.com with AJ Mead handling play-by-play duties. Updates can also be found on Twitter by following @49erGameDay.
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