Eastern Mennonite regained the lead midway through the second half with a 9-0 run and the Royals fought off Bridgewater College the rest of the way to take a 78-70 victory Wednesday evening in Old Dominion Athletic Conference women's basketball action.
For the second straight game the Eagles battled one of the conference's best teams on even terms.
The first half's biggest lead belonged to the Eagles with an eight-point margin. The score was tied seven times and the lead changed hands on six occasions.
Bridgewater's Heather Cantrell and EMU's Becky Barrett traded hoops to start the game and a free throw by Bianca Ygarza gave the Royals their first lead at 3-2.
Holly Morgan's 3-pointer gave the Eagles a 5-3 lead before a layup by Bianca Ygarza tied the score at 5-5.
Bridgewater was the first team to lead by more than three points when two free throws by Cantrell and a short jumper by Rebecca Reifsnider put the Eagles on top 23-19 with 9:20 left in the half.
The teams then traded points for a three-minute stretch with a 3-pointer by EMU's Alisa Brown cutting the Eagles lead to one, 28-27.
Bridgewater then reeled off a 7-0 spurt to take the biggest lead of the first half. Morgan hit a jumper to push the lead to three. After an EMU turnover Morgan drained a long 3-pointer for a six-point, 33-27, Eagles advantage. Cantrell capped the run with a pair of foul shots to put the Eagles up 35-27 with 5:19 left in the half.
The Royals answered Bridgewater's 7-0 run with their own 7-0 run to pull within a single point 35-34 with 3:32 left in the half.
A jumper by Jessi Strom kept Bridgewater up by three and, after a free throw by EMU's Keyla Baltimore, Cantrell made two from the foul line for a 39-35 Eagles lead.
The Eagles went scoreless over the final 2:41 of the half and a layup by Alicia Ygarza followed by two foul shots by Nora Osei tied the score at 39-39 at the half.
The first nine minutes of the second half followed the script of the first 20 minutes of the game. The score was tied five times and the lead changed hands four times.
With the score tied at 52-52, the Eagles took the lead on a bucket by Cantrell with 11:42 remaining. After a free throw by the Royals' Shakeerah Sykes made it a one-point game, Cassidy Burkholder drove the lane for layup to give the Eagles a 57-54 lead with 11:20 to play.
The Royals then put together their best offensive run of the night as a 9-0 spurt gave EMU the lead for good.
A foul shot by Bianca Ygarza cut the margin to two and a three-point play by Brown put the Royals back on top 58-57 with 10:14 to play. Steph Rheinheimer then knocked down a 3-pointer and a 15-footer to give the Royals a 63-57 lead.
During EMU's 9-0 spurt that spanned 3:22 of clock time, the Eagles were 0-for-7 from the floor and turned the ball over twice.
Following EMU's 9-0 spurt, the Eagles twice pulled to within three points. Cantrell sandwiched a pair of buckets around a jumper by EMU's Baltimore to cut the lead to four and Burkholder hit 1-of-2 at the line, cutting the Royals lead to 65-62.
Baltimore knocked down a jumper for the Royals but Molly Shelley countered with two foul shots to once again make it a three-point game, 67-64.
Brown then hit 1-of-2 foul shots and Sykes powered inside for a layup to put EMU on top 70-64 with 4:31 left in the game. A layup by Burkholder cut it to four, but Sykes scored again from in close, making the score 72-66 with 2:25 remaining.
After a steal by Cantrell, Burkholder was fouled on the way to the basket and Bridgewater sophomore sank both shots to pull the Eagles to within four, 72-68 with 57 seconds left.
The Royals iced the game from the charity stripe by making 6-of-8 free throws in the final minute to secure the 78-70 victory. The final margin of victory was EMU's biggest lead of the game.
Holly Morgan led the Eagles with 22 points, 18 of those coming in the first half. Cantrell finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds for her sixth double-double of the season. Burkholder added 15 points.
Baltimore paced the Royals with 15 points. Rheinheimer scored 14 points and Brown added 12.
Both teams shot well from the floor with the Eagles making 44.1 percent (26-of-59) and the Royals connecting on 46.7 percent (28-of-60). Each team made five 3-pointers while the Royals outscored the Eagles by four at the foul line. EMU made 17-of-29 free throws while the Eagles missed just one of their 14 free throw attempts.
In the first meeting of the year, the Royals hammered Bridgewater on the boards. The Eagles rectified that problem Wednesday by holding a 37-30 margin on the glass. In addition to Cantrell's 10 boards, Morgan and Burkholder each pulled down six.
Eastern Mennonite did hold the edge in the turnover department. Bridgewater turned the ball over 20 times, compared to just 13 turnovers for the host team.
Bridgewater is now 5-8 in the ODAC and 7-14 overall. Eastern Mennonite holds on to first place in the ODAC with a 12-1 conference mark. The Royals are now 18-4 overall.
Bridgewater returns to action Saturday afternoon with a long road trip to Emory & Henry. Game time is 3 p.m.