WILMINGTON, North Carolina – Led by freshman guard Sierra Shepherd (Ribault H.S./Jacksonville, Fla.) and senior guard Destinee Smith (Columbia H.S./Decatur, Ga.), North Florida (2-3) overcame a 12-point halftime deficit to hand UNCW (2-2) its second straight loss, a 55-41 non-conference victory in the UNCW Hampton Inn Thanksgiving Classic at Trask Coliseum on Friday afternoon.
Trailing by a 33-21 margin at the intermission, the Ospreys put together an 18-6 run over the first 12 minutes of the second half to tie the game at 39-39 on a pair of free throws from sophomore forward Janea Williams (Pinecrest H.S./Pinehurst, N.C.) with 7:01 remaining.
After the teams traded baskets, the Ospreys scored the final 14 points of the game to claim a 55-41 victory. Shepherd tallied 8 of the 14 points during the run as UNCW was held scoreless for the final six minutes.
Led by six points from senior center Sarah Myatt (Southern Alamance H.S./Burlington, N.C.), the Seahawks surged out to an 11-5 lead in the first 3:14 of the game. The Ospreys rallied to tie the game at 17-17 by scoring 12 of the next 18 points, including five points from junior guard Kadesia Johnson (Poinciana H.S./Kissimmee, Fla.).
After the Ospreys took a two-point lead on a jumper by senior guard Brittney Wright (Altamonte Springs, Fla.) with 7:35 remaining in the opening stanza, the Seahawks used a 16-2 spurt to close the half with a 12-point advantage.
Smith scored a game-high 18 points, including eight points in the second half, to lead the Ospreys to the victory. She made 6 of 11 shots from the floor, including a 3-for-4 effort from three-point range, and added four rebounds and two assists.
Shepherd scored 10 of her 12 points in the second half while contributing three assists and three steals.
Senior guard Kelva Atkins (Granville Central H.S./Stem, N.C.) posted 16 points in a losing effort for UNCW, including a 6-for-6 effort at the foul line, while Myatt contributed eight points.
The Seahawks will return to action on Saturday afternoon when they host Western Carolina in the final game of the tournament at 2:00 p.m. The Ospreys will face Eastern Kentucky in the first game of the doubleheader at 12:00 p.m.