Fourth-quarter rally lifts Nazareth past Elmira, 60-49

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Host Nazareth outscored Elmira 26-14 in the fourth quarter Thursday to break open a close game and rally past the Soaring Eagles, 60-49, in Empire 8 women's basketball action at the Kidera Gym.

The victory enabled Nazareth to hold on to fourth place in the Empire 8 Conference standings with a mark of 8-6. With two regular-season games remaining – Saturday at home against St. John Fisher and Tuesday at Alfred – the Golden Flyers are 12-11 overall. Elmira dropped to 4-8 in conference games and 12-9 overall.

On a night in which leading scorer Samantha Peebles struggled to find her offensive rhythm (6 points on 1-for-13 shooting), Rachel Benedict picked up the scoring slack by producing games highs in points (24) and rebounds (12). She scored 14 of her points, including three three-pointers, in the fourth quarter as Nazareth pulled away. Lizzie Straub contributed 13 points, including a pair of three-pointers and freshman Haley Schoelerman came off the bench to score a career-high 11 points to go with seven rebounds.

With Elmira holding a one-point lead, 35-34, after three quarters, Nazareth used a 17-4 scoring spree -- capped by Benedict's three-pointer -- over the first five minutes of the fourth quarter to take a double-digit lead, 51-39. The lead swelled as large as 15 points on two occasions with another three-pointer by Benedict making the score 58-43 with 2:05 left. Nazareth shot 10-for-17 from the floor in the fourth quarter with five three-pointers.

The Golden Flyers started slowly offensively, scoring just seven points in the first quarter. They trailed 10-7, but came back to tie the score at 14-14 in the second quarter with a the help of a three-pointer by Benedict, who scored seven of her points in the first half. Nazareth eventually inched in front, 21-18, late in the second quarter following a basket by Delaney Martin and a free throw by Straub. Elmira closed the gap to 21-20 before the intermission.

The victory avenged an earlier defeat to the Soaring Eagles, who beat the Flyers , 66-62, on Jan. 23. The win also keeps Nazareth in the mix for an E8 playoff berth as they sit fourth in the standings with two games left. The E8 Tournament is Feb. 23-24.