UNC Pembroke’s Kelci Adams takes a 3-point shot attempt during a Jan. 20 game against Lees-McRae in Pembroke. Adams hit four 3-pointers in Saturday’s win over Erskine.
                                 UNCP Athletics

UNC Pembroke’s Kelci Adams takes a 3-point shot attempt during a Jan. 20 game against Lees-McRae in Pembroke. Adams hit four 3-pointers in Saturday’s win over Erskine.

UNCP Athletics

PEMBROKE — In both halves of Saturday’s game against Erskine, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke women’s basketball team didn’t get off to the best start.

But in both halves, they finished strong. Doing so helped the Lady Braves ground the Flying Fleet with a 61-46 win.

“Basketball is a game of runs regardless,” Braves senior Aniah McManus said. “They’re going to have their time, and we’ve got to do our part and minimize how long their run is going to be, and when we get our run try to extend it as long as we can.”

UNCP (17-6, 11-2 Conference Carolinas) withstood an 18-4 run by Erskine (3-18, 1-13 CC) spanning much of the third quarter that tied the score at 39-39 after an Anzya Cook 3 with 1:21 on the clock. Kelci Adams hit a triple of her own — her fourth of the afternoon — to give the Braves back the lead and then McManus hit a layup-and-1 with one second left in the quarter to make it a 45-39 lead entering the fourth.

“I thought we got some momentum, and then I thought the last play of the quarter when Aniah drove to the basket and got fouled, I thought that was kind of — we had gained a little momentum and then that gave us some momentum going into the fourth quarter,” UNCP coach John Haskins said.

“The sea parted,” McManus said. “That’s basically what happened, just running downhill. In the moment, the clock’s running down, so it was either put up the layup or look for someone else, but I kind of left everybody so the layup was the only option.”

The Braves extended the run to 11-0, and the lead to 50-39, after another McManus layup and three Adams free throws with 7:16 to go.

Adams’ two 3s in the stretch came after two early triples and several empty attempts through the middle portion of the game.

“Coming out hot, you feel great, and then missing a couple, I know it’s part of the game and it’s going to happen,” Adams said. “Just staying positive and then try to play good D, get good rebounds, and obviously it will come, and obviously it did.”

Erskine closed to a 51-44 deficit after a Carmen Chandler 3 and a Ianna Odujala bucket with 5:18 to go, but UNCP went on a 9-0 run featuring two Lillian Flantos baskets and a Alcenia Purnell 3 to make it 60-44 with 1:37 left.

UNCP built a first-half lead with a 19-0 run spanning the last four minutes of the first quarter and the first nearly six minutes of the second.

Erskine led 14-8 before the Braves’ run; it was a 14-13 game at the end of the first quarter. Courtney Smith gave UNCP a 15-14 lead with two free throws before Adams and Purnell each hit 3s, with a Kalaya Hall basket sandwiched in between, before two Hall free throws and an McManus layup made it 27-14 Braves at the 4:28 mark. Ianna Odulaja hit a 3 for Erskine’s first points in 10 minutes.

Erskine hit just one more field goal for the rest of the half and UNCP led 33-21 at the break.

Erskine led 9-2 before Adams hit 3s on back-to-back possession for the Braves, closing the Flying Fleet lead to 9-8 midway through the first quarter. Erskine expanded its lead again, to 14-8, before UNCP began its big run.

“We’re an experienced team, so just staying focused and don’t let what they do affect what we do, and just continue to do what we do,” Hall said.

Hall led the Braves with 18 points, going 14-for-14 at the free-throw line, and grabbed seven rebounds. Hall led an overall 23-for-27 effort at the stripe for UNCP.

“Kelci and (Purnell) shot it pretty good, but except for that we just struggled to score, struggled to shoot the ball,” Haskins said. “So the biggest thing was getting to the free-throw line. Kalaya was 14-for-14, Kelci was 3-for-4. We got the the free-throw line a bunch and we attacked, and that was the difference in the game, because if we’re not getting to the line when we can’t hit shots, we would’ve really struggled.”

Adams had 15 points with four rebounds and four steals, McManus scored eight points with four rebounds and Purnell tallied six points.

Cook led Erskine with 11 points and four rebounds, Janelle Carter scored eight points with four rebounds and Odujala added seven points.

The Braves have five regular-season games remaining and will travel to Barton on Thursday.