PITTSBURGH, Pa. — While it wasn’t the most picturesque win of the season, it was a victory that officially has the University of Rio Grande women’s basketball team playing beyond next Saturday’s regular season finale.
The RedStorm led from nearly start to finish in an eventual 75-68 triumph over Carlow University, Saturday afternoon, in River States Conference action at Oakland Catholic High School’s Donahue Pavilion.
Head coach David Smalley’s squad improved to 18-11 overall and 10-5 in league play with the win.
The victory also secured Rio Grande as the No. 2 seed from the RSC’s East Division, assuring the RedStorm of a home game in the first round of the conference tournament on Wednesday, Feb. 26 against the No. 3 seed from the West Division.
Carlow slipped to 8-18 overall and 3-10 in the RSC with the loss.
The Celtics scored the game’s first three points and led 5-3 after a bucket by Megan Ost with 7:59 left in the opening quarter, but Rio Grande reeled off nine straight points and never trailed again.
The RedStorm led 17-13 at the close of the first period before a 12-2 spurt to begin the second stanza, culminated by a three-pointer by freshman Kaylie Apperson (McConnelsville, OH), produced a 14-point advantage, 29-15, with 5:56 remaining in the half.
Carlow closed the deficit to seven points on five different occasions over the next 7-1/2 minutes, including 41-34 after a jumper by Emma Stille at the 8:23 mark of the third quarter, but Rio surged again with a 15-6 run to take its largest lead of the day, 56-40, after freshman Bethany Arnold (Williamstown, WV) hit one of two free throws with 3:48 left in the period.
The Celtics refused to fold, though, and methodically pulled to within 56-51 after a bucket by Ost with 9:55 left to play.
However, the comeback got no closer.
A 16-7 run by the RedStorm, capped by a free throw from freshman Lexi Woods (Waverly, OH), pushed the lead back to 14 points, 72-58, with 3:02 remaining in the game.
Carlow again got to within six, 74-68, after two free throws by Keagen Brownlee with 14 seconds left, but a free throw by Rio senior Sydney Holden (Wheelersburg, OH) moments later made it a three-possession game and set the final score.
Apperson led five double-digit scorers for the RedStorm with 17 points, while Holden had 11 points to go along with 15 rebounds, a game-high seven assists and a game-best four steals.
Freshman Hailey Jordan (Columbus, OH) also had 11 points, while Woods and freshman Reagan Willingham scored 10 points each.
Rio Grande got the win despite shooting just 38 percent overall (27-for-71) and going 15-for-28 (53.6%) at the foul line.
Delaney Daly led Carlow with 16 points, while Stille had 12 points, 17 rebounds and six blocked shots.
Ost added 10 points and three steals in a losing cause for the Celtics, who shot just 30 percent overall (20-for-66) — including 22.9 percent in the first half (8-for-35) — and 18.2 percent from three-point range (4-for-22).
Rio Grande will close out its regular season on Saturday when it hosts RSC East Division leader and regular season champion WVU-Tech for Senior Day at the Newt Oliver Arena.
Tipoff is set for 1 p.m.
Holden will be honored in pre-game ceremonies.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.