RIO GRANDE, Ohio — Perhaps it was appropriate that the University of Rio Grande turned to a future nurse for the application of a tourniquet to the RedStorm’s hemorrhaging close to its regular season schedule.
Sydney Holden, a nursing major and the reigning River States Conference Player of the Week, poured in a career-high 33 points — including a tie-breaking run of 10 straight late in the second half — to fuel Rio’s 95-89 triumph over Point Park University, Tuesday night, in women’s basketball action at the Newt Oliver Arena.
Rio Grande which, outside of a forfeit win over now-defunct Cincinnati Christian University, had lost each of its previous three outings and thrown its once solid post-season standing into a state of disarray, improved to 17-11 overall and 9-5 in conference play with the win.
Point Park slipped to 16-11 overall and 6-7 in the RSC with the loss.
The Pioneers looked to be in deep trouble early on after Rio scored the game’s first nine points before eventually taking a 26-13 lead after a runner in the lane by Holden just 48 seconds into the second quarter. The 13-point advantage would represent the RedStorm’s largest cushion of the contest.
Point Park failed to waiver, though, slicing the deficit to five, 45-40, by the intermission and wiping it out altogether when a three-pointer by Taylor Kirschner gave the visitors their first lead of the night, 50-49, with 7:00 left in the third period.
Kirschner’s trifecta was part of a 7-0 PPU scoring spurt which turned a two-point deficit into a five-point edge, 54-49, following a steal and layup by Lexi Petit with 5:24 remaining in the third.
Over the next 11 minutes and change, nine ties and six lead changes followed, with the last of ties, 78-78, coming after Point Park’s Michelle Burns hit one of two free throw attempts with 4:05 left in the game.
Enter Holden, stage right, in the role of Rio’s own version of Florence Nightingale.
The Wheelersburg, Ohio native drilled consecutive three-pointers on each of the RedStorm’s next two possessions, kick-starting her streak of 10 straight points which precipitated a 88-78 lead with just over two minutes to play.
The Pioneers got no closer than four points the rest of the way.
Even then, after another three-pointer by Kirschner made it 93-89 with 11 seconds remaining, it was Holden who sealed the win by nailing a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left to set the final score.
Rio Grande finished 23-for-26 at the free throw line (88.5%), including a 15-for-18 performance (83.3%) in the second half. Holden was a perfect 11-for-11 from the charity stripe.
Holden also had a game-high 12 rebounds and three blocked shots for the RedStorm.
Freshman Hailey Jordan (Columbus, OH) added 17 points and 12 rebounds of her own in the winning effort, while fellow frosh Lexi Woods (Waverly, OH) had 13 points and a pair of steals and freshman Reagan Willingham (Ashville, OH) contributed 10 points.
Junior Chyna Chambers (Columbus, OH) had a game-best five assists for Rio.
Burns and Kirschner proved to be a near lethal one-two punch for Point Park, finishing with 29 and 24 points, respectively. Burns’ total represented a season-high, while Kirschner’s mark was a career-best.
The duo also combined for 11 — six by Kirschner and five by Burns — of the Pioneers’ 13 three-point goals in the contest.
The remainder of Point Park’s point total came from three other double-digit scorers. Taylor Rinn had 15 to go along with a team-best nine rebounds, while Petit and Baylie Mook tallied 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Rio Grande, which moved to within one win of clinching a post-season berth with the win, can finish the task when it travels to Pittsburgh, Pa. on Saturday for the final regular season road contest of season against Carlow University.
Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. at Oakland Catholic High School’s Donahue Pavilion.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.