PORTSMOUTH, Ohio — Over the course of his near 30-year career as the head women’s basketball coach at the University of Rio Grande, David Smalley had made plenty of trips to Waller Gymnasium to square off with rival Shawnee State University.
But none of his 592 career victories had come against the Bears on their home floor.
Until Tuesday night, that is.
Ella Skeens and Hailey Jordan scored 16 points each and Kaylee Darnell finished with a career-high 15 points and eight rebounds to lead the RedStorm in an 84-80 victory, which spoiled Shawnee’s home opener.
Rio Grande improved to 5-0 with the win, just its seventh in 56 alltime meetings with the Bears and its first in 27 matchups between the two schools in Portsmouth.
Shawnee State dropped to 1-1 with the loss, just its fifth in 34 alltime home openers and its first in a home lid-lifter since 2007.
The Bears erased a 13-point first quarter deficit and used a 9-0 run which bridged the end of the period and the start of the second stanza to take a 32-28 lead of their own following a layup by Kevanika Brown with 8:07 left in the half.
Rio rebounded, though, to regain a 47-43 edge at the intermission and, despite Shawnee forging a pair of ties early in the third quarter, never trailed again.
In fact, the RedStorm pushed their lead back to as many as 12 points late in the period and reached the mark again with just under five minutes to play in the game, but the Bears refused to go away quietly in front of raucous crowd.
Rio led 84-73 after a layup by Jordan with 2:16 left to play, but Shawnee closed the gap to 84-80 following a jumper by Kam Elzy with 15 seconds remaining.
The RedStorm threw the ball away on their ensuing possession — one of their 26 turnovers for the game and 16 second half miscues — but the mad scramble to gain control of the loose ball left just one second to play and the Bears final shot of the night was off the mark as time expired.
Skeens, a junior from Chillicothe, Ohio and the reigning River States Conference Player of the Week, scored all of her points in the first half. She also finished with a game-high eight rebounds.
Jordan, a junior from Columbus, Ohio, had 10 of her points after halftime, including eight in the final period. She also tied for team honors with four assists and added a team-high two steals.
Darnell, a freshman from Wheelersburg, Ohio, surpassed her previous highs of 12 points and seven rebounds by scoring nine of her 15 points after the break and tying Skeens for game-best honors in rebounding.
Rio Grande also got 12 points and four assists from senior guard Chyna Chambers in the winning effort.
Elzy was a one-woman wrecking crew in a losing cause for Shawnee State. The UNLV transfer poured in a career-high 38 points to go along with six assists and six steals.
Kevanika Brown added 15 points off the bench for the Bears, while Anyia Pride tallied 13 points and a team-high five rebounds.
Rio Grande is scheduled to return to action on Friday night in the opening round of the Bevo Francis Invitational.
The RedStorm will host the University of Cincinnati-Clermont in a 6 p.m. tipoff at the Newt Oliver Arena.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.