RIO GRANDE, Ohio — Shattering a two school records which had stood for over 23 years and tying another, Harley Adler recorded 11 blocks to go along with her 11 points and a team-high eight rebounds as the University of Rio Grande women’s basketball team won posted a thrilling 81-78 Parent Appreciation Day win over the University of Pikeville, Saturday afternoon at Newt Oliver Arena.
Adler, a sophomore forward from Burton, Ohio, swatted her way into the record books by breaking Ann Barnitz’ record of seven blocks in a single game which was set on January 31, 1991, against Wilmington College.
Adler now has 54 blocks this season, tying her with Barnitz for the most in a single season in program history.
More importantly, though, the victory - coupled with a Bluefield College loss to Shawnee State - allowed the RedStorm (18-10 overall, 7-9 Mid-South Conference) to stand alone in sixth place in the MSC standings.
Pikeville (12-16 overall, 6-10 MSC) fell into a tie for seventh place with Bluefield with the defeat.
The top eight teams qualify for the MSC tournament, which begins in two weeks at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tenn.
“We didn’t play very well in the first half and I really think both teams missed golden opportunities to pull away,” said Rio Grande head coach David Smalley. “I really shouldn’t be surprised, I guess, due to this Thursday-Saturday format the conference has laid out for us. I’m so proud of my team for not giving up, though, and holding their composure. Maybe we got lucky or maybe it’s because we were playing at home, but it doesn’t matter to me. We got the win and we deserved the win.”
The RedStorm jumped out to a 6-3 lead at the 16:05 mark in the opening half after back-to-back buckets from freshman forward Alexis Payne (Deep Water, WV) but saw their lead quickly evaporate as the Bears ensued on a 10-0 run capped off by buckets from Callisha Johnson and Khalilah Quigley to take a 13-6 advantage of their own with 13:42 left in the first half.
Rio Grande battled throughout the remainder of the half to take the lead back, using a 16-4 run late in the stanza to take a 34-29 cushion with 3:37 left until halftime.
Sophomore forward Sarah Bonar (Hartford, OH) provided most of the firepower through the run, scoring nine of the 16 points Rio used to seize the lead.
Pikeville would not lay down, however, and used a couple of Quigley baskets inside the final minute of the half to send both teams to the locker room deadlocked at 39-39.
The second half started out much like a prize fight, with Rio Grande going on a 7-0 run after an opening Pikeville three-pointer to take a 46-39 advantage with 17:39 left in the contest.
The Bears would answer back with a 9-0 run over the next 3-1/2 minutes and regained the lead at 51-46 with 15:32 remaining.
Rio rebounded, though, and went in front, 60-58, after a bucket by junior guard Brianna Thomas (Maplewood, NJ) with 10:26 left in the game, but the Bears refused to go away quietly and remained within five points of a tie going into the waning minutes of the game.
UPike eventually did regain the lead - twice, in fact - at 72-71 on a three-pointer by Johnson with 5:00 remaining and 74-73 on a Johnson jumper just over a minute later, but a runner in the lane by Thomas with 3:42 left put Rio Grande back in front, 75-74.
It was a lead that the RedStorm wouldn’t surrender.
The Bears twice got back to within a point, but a pair of baskets by Bonar and two free throws by Thomas with 9.1 seconds remaining sealed the win.
Pikeville missed a would-be game-tying three-pointer by Johnson as time expired.
“We’re still in control of our destiny,” Smalley said. “We have a tough road trip coming up in which anything could happen. There’s so many scenarios that could play out but that’s the furthest thing from my mind right now. The focus for us needs to be taking care of business one game at a time on this upcoming road trip.”
Shooting-wise, Rio Grande finished hitting 48 percent of shots from the field (30 of 63), 50 percent from three-point range (2 of 4) and 68 percent from the free throw line (19 of 28).
Pikeville shot just 35 percent from the floor overall (25 of 71), 40 percent from distance (8 of 20) and 65 percent (20 of 31) at the charity stripe.
In addition to Adler, four other RedStorm players reached the double-digit plateau in scoring.
Bonar led all scorers with 21 points to go along with five rebounds and four steals, while Thomas had 20 points, seven steals and a team-high four assists. Freshmen Brooked Marcum (Vinton, OH) and Sharday Baines (East Cleveland, OH) rounded out the scoring with 10 points apiece.
The Bears were led by Johnson’s 19 points, while Quigley netted 18 points and recorded team-highs in both rebounds (10) and assists (4).
Rio Grande returns to action on Thursday evening when they hit the road to face Lindsey Wilson for a 7 p.m. EST tipoff.