Rio women rally, remain unbeaten

By Randy Payton - For Ohio Valley Publishing

VIENNA, W.Va. — Nearing the midway point of the third quarter in Saturday afternoon’s meeting with Ohio Valley University, it appeared as if the last thing the University of Rio Grande would need would be a late game rally.

After all, the 19th-ranked RedStorm enjoyed a comfortable 18-point lead and looked well on their way to a 13th consecutive win to begin the season.

Sometimes, though, looks can be deceiving.

Head coach David Smalley’s squad used a 16-4 run over the final five minutes to erase a two-point deficit and post a 72-62 victory over the Fighting Scots in River States Conference women’s basketball action at the Snyder Activity Center.

Rio Grande ran its record to 13-0 overall and 5-0 in conference play with the win.

Ohio Valley dropped to 0-5 overall and 0-4 in league play with its 29th consecutive loss dating back to the close of the 2019-20 season.

The Fighting Scots, who trailed from the outset, saw a 10-point first quarter deficit balloon to 15 points in the second period and to 18 points, 48-30, following a layup by Rio senior Chyna Chambers (Columbus, OH) with 6:17 remaining in the third quarter.

That’s when the host team began to mount a furious comeback attempt, slicing the deficit down to five in the closing seconds of the period before scoring 12 of the first 14 points in the final stanza to take what proved to be their only lead of the day, 58-56, following a steal and a jumper by Sparkle Leigh with 5:10 left to play.

And while OVU suddenly enjoyed all of the momentum and the support of a small, yet boisterous crowd, Leigh’s go-ahead points ended up serving as a wakeup call for the RedStorm.

Rio cut the gap in half on its ensuing possession when freshman Kaylee Darnell (Wheelersburg, OH) hit one of two free throw attempts and then took the lead for good, 59-58, on a steal and a layup by junior Hailey Jordan (Columbus, OH) with 4:43 remaining.

The points kickstarted the game-ending run, which saw the RedStorm connected on its final five shots from the floor in the final 2:16 of the contest.

Five different players scored for Rio during the victory-clinching spurt, including four points each by Jordan and freshman Aleea Crites (Parkersburg, WV).

The game’s finish was a different story for the Fighting Scots, though, who went 2-for-7 from the floor with three turnovers in their final 10 possessions after gaining the lead.

Jordan, the reigning RSC Player of the Week, led Rio Grande with 14 points, a game-high 10 rebounds and three steals, while Crites also had 14 points and three steals and junior Ella Skeens (Chillicothe, OH) tossed in 13 points.

The RedStorm also got three steals and a game-best nine assists from Chambers, while freshman Azyiah Williams (Ripley, OH) handed out six assists of her own — all in the first half.

Rio Grande shot just 38.7 percent overall (29-for-75), 28.6 percent from three-point range (2-for-7) and 54.5 percent at the free throw line (12-for-22).

Ohio Valley actually shot the ball better than their guests, going 25-for-53 overall (47.2%) and 5-for-15 from distance (33.3%), but the Fighting Scots were just 7-for-15 at the free throw line (46.7%) and had 24 turnovers that led directly to 23 Rio points.

Marina Garcia led a quartet of double-digit scorers for OVU with 21 points, one off of her season- and career-high. She also had a team-best seven rebounds and four assists.

Lucia Gancedo added 12 points, seven rebounds and a pair of blocked shots before fouling out, while Jessica Smith netted 11 points and Leigh added 10 in a losing cause.

Rio Grande is scheduled to return to action next Saturday when it travels to Indiana University East for a key RSC East Division matchup.

Tipoff is set for 3 p.m.

By Randy Payton

For Ohio Valley Publishing

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

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