Rio women rally to beat Celtics

By Randy Payton - For Ohio Valley Publishing

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — It’s been said that nothing worth having comes easy.

For the University of Rio Grande women’s basketball team, the adage applied to the squad’s quest for a 27th win in its regular season finale.

The RedStorm rallied from a 10-point second quarter deficit, opening up a 16-point lead of their own in the final period before settling on a 76-64 triumph over Carlow University, Saturday afternoon, in River States Conference action at Oakland Catholic High School’s Donahue Pavilion.

Rio, ranked No. 21 in the latest NAIA Division II Coaches’ Poll, improved to 27-3 overall and 15-2 in the RSC with the victory.

Carlow saw its season finish at 10-16 overall and 5-12 in league play.

The Celtics spotted their guests the game’s first four points, but then proceeded to reel off seven straight points of their own to grab a lead which held until the midway point of the third quarter.

Carlow’s cushion reached as many as 10 points, 22-12, after a turnaround jumper in the lane by Emma Stille with 8:17 left in the first half and stood at 33-28 by the time halftime rolled around.

Rio Grande, which shot just 29.4 percent (10-for-34) while committing 12 turnovers in the first half, turned their fortunes around after the break.

The RedStorm shot 62 percent over the final two stanzas (18-for-29) and regained the lead, 39-37, following a jumper by junior Jasmine Smith (Canal Winchester, OH) with 4:29 remaining in the third period.

The lead stood at just four points, 57-53, after a pair of free throws by Carlow’s Noelle Vallimont with 5:55 left in the game, but Rio went on a 13-2 run over the next 3-1/2 minutes to open up a 15-point lead with 2:25 remaining and secure the victory once and for all.

The RedStorm’s biggest lead of the contest came with 1:25 left when freshman Chyna Chambers (Columbus, OH) hit one of two free throws to make it 73-57.

Eleven of the 12 Rio players in uniform scored at least two points in the win, with Smith’s 16-point, three-steal effort leading the way.

Sophomore Sydney Holden (Wheelersburg, OH) added 14 points and 12 rebounds in the winning effort, while sophomore Abby Wendel (Portland, IN) had a game-high five assists.

The RedStorm finished with a 40-37 edge in rebounding, helping to offset its 23 turnovers and 15-for-25 performance at the free throw line.

Alexis Yanief led a trio of double-digit scorers for Carlow with 14 points, while Stille had 13 points and a dozen rebounds and Chanel Sparks tallied 11 points and nine rebounds.

Yanief also had a game-high four steals and Sparks a team-high three assists in a losing cause for the Celtics.

Rio Grande will return to action on Wednesday night when it hosts Brescia University – the No. 4 seed out of the RSC’s West Division – in the quarterfinal round of the conference tournament.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Newt Oliver Arena.

By Randy Payton

For Ohio Valley Publishing

Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director for the University of Rio Grande.

Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director for the University of Rio Grande.