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Strong Starts Stun Bullets; Messiah Rolls Past Gettysburg
Junior Sal Shani was part of a defensive effort that held Gettysburg to just 30.8 percent shooting Thursday night.

Grantham, PA – A pair of opening surges helped push the third-ranked Messiah College women’s basketball team past visiting Gettysburg College Thursday evening, as the Falcons captured a 71-47 win in Brubaker Auditorium.

Messiah (7-0, 0-0) opened the contest by scoring 14 of the game’s first 16 points and went on a 17 to five run to begin the second half, effectively putting the game out of reach in the early goings of both stanzas.

“For the first time since the third game of the year, our starting group got us going in both halves,” said Mike Miller, Messiah head coach. “I thought our energy and effort was great tonight, and that’s something that we’ve been stressing a lot recently.”

A three pointer by senior Lauren Schurr began the night just 20 seconds into play, while another trey from Schurr just three minutes later capped a 14 to two Falcons’ run to open the scoring. Messiah led 16-4 with 15:10 remaining in the first half, but a steady push by the Bullets over the game’s next four minutes helped the visitors get close: Four Messiah turnovers keyed a 12 to two Gettysburg run, and the Falcons led by just an 18-16 count midway through the period.

A bettered defensive effort helped shift the trend, however, as Messiah held Gettysburg to a zero for five effort from the field  - including forcing three turnovers - over the game’s next three minutes. Miller’s team led by a 26-16 score with 7:46 on the game clock, and took a 37-27 advantage into the locker room at halftime.

“Our offensive decisions in the first half were generally poor, leading to 14 turnovers for us,” Miller said. “We were much better in the second half in that regard.”

An interior score from senior All-American Nikki Lobach began what would be a scorching start to the second half for Messiah, as the hosts rattled off 17 points in the period’s first 10 minutes and change to blow things open. The Falcons scored on four of their first seven shots from the floor while holding the Bullets to just a two of 11 effort, forcing seven Gettysburg errors as well. The result was a 54-32 lead with 9:42 to play, as Gettysburg would get no closer than 17 points for the remainder of the way.

Lobach concluded the game with composite scoring honors, charting 18 points on a six of eight shooting performance. Schurr added nine points while junior Silalei Shani scored eight. Lobach grabbed seven of Messiah’s 42 total rebounds.

Messiah held Gettysburg to just a 16 for 52 clip from the field overall (30.8 percent), while allowing just six buckets in 22 attempts in the second half (27.3 percent). The Falcons outrebounded the Bullets by a 42 to 27 count as a byproduct of that defensive performance. Messiah scored on 25 of 52 total shots (48.1 percent).

“Our defensive and rebounding energy is becoming consistently excellent,” Miller said. “That cannot change if we want to get to where we want to be.”

Miller’s team leapt from fifth to third place in this week’s (Dec. 4) USA Today/ESPN Top 25 Coaches Poll, falling behind only Hope College (5-0) and Howard Payne University (4-0).

Messiah will take a brief layoff before hosting DeSales University on Saturday, the team’s final home contest of the calendar year. Game time is set for 7 p.m. in Brubaker Auditorium.