BECKLEY, W.Va. — The University of Rio Grande women’s basketball team finally ran into a deficit that it couldn’t quite overcome.
The RedStorm shaved a 19-point first half deficit down to one twice in the fourth quarter but couldn’t get all the way over the hump in a 105-95 loss to West Virginia University-Tech, Thursday, in River States Conference action at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.
The Golden Bears improved to 10-14 overall and 8-5 in conference play with the victory.
Rio Grande, which was ranked No. 18 in the most recent NAIA Coaches’ Top 25 poll, had a seven-game winning streak snapped and fell to 23-2 overall and 11-1 in the RSC as a result of the loss.
The RedStorm, who shook off a slow start in a win at Indiana Kokomo last Saturday and a fourth quarter deficit in Tuesday night’s home victory against Indiana East, also remained winless in four all-time meetings with Tech in Beckley.
The Golden Bears used a 16-0 run to help fuel a 27-9 lead late in the opening quarter before taking their largest advantage of the night, 47-28, following a three-point goal by Brittney Justice with 5:29 left before halftime.
That’s when Rio began the tall task of digging itself out of the hole.
The RedStorm got to within three just before the intermission and did so again when a layup by freshman Kaylee Darnell (Wheelersburg, OH) just 50 seconds into the second half made it 52-49.
Tech responded by scoring 18 of the game’s next 26 points to regain a 13-point cushion, 70-57, after a trifecta by Whittney Justice with 5:48 left in the third period.
The Bears’ lead remained at 11 points entering the final stanza, but Rio rallied again and got within 81-80 after a layup by senior Chyna Chambers (Columbus, OH) with 5:01 left to play.
A pair of free throws by junior Ella Skeens (Chillicothe, OH) with 3:55 remaining again had the RedStorm as close as 83-82, but that’s as close as they’d get the rest of the way.
The contest was still a one-possession game with 1:27 left to go after a jumper by junior Hailey Jordan (Columbus, OH) sliced Rio’s deficit to 93-90, but Tech sealed the win by going 12-for-14 at the free throw line over the final 62 seconds.
Whittney Justice and Brittney Justice led the Golden Bears’ winning effort with 23 points each. The senior sisters combined to go 14-for-29 overall, 7-for-14 from three-point range and 11-for-12 at the free throw line.
Brianna Ball led four other Tech players in double figures with 18 points and 13 rebounds, while Alanis Hill added 15. Elle Baker and Emilee Whitt netted 12 and 10 points, respectively, in the victory, while Baker also blocked three shots.
The hosts finished 37-for-69 overall (53.6%), 10-for-20 from beyond the three-point arc (50%), 21-for-26 at the free throw line (80.8%) and enjoyed a whopping 51-36 edge in rebounding.
Tech also tallied 28 assists on its 37 made baskets, with Whittney Justice and Hill handing out six each.
Skeens led Rio Grande in scoring, following up her career-best 40-point performance in Tuesday’s win over IU East with 26 points. She also had a team-high nine rebounds to go along with five assists.
Junior Reagan Willingham (Ashville, OH) hit five of the RedStorm’s seven three-pointers to net a season-high 17 points, while Chambers had 15 points and a game-best eight assists.
Jordan tossed in 12 points, freshman Aleea Crites (Parkersburg, WV) chipped in 11 points and senior Avery Harper (Seaman, OH) had a team-high four steals and two blocked shots in a losing cause.
Rio finished just 31-for-78 from the floor overall (39.7%) and was only 7-for-23 from three-point range (30.4%).
The RedStorm are scheduled to return to action on Tuesday night when they host Carlow University for a 5:30 p.m. tip at the Newt Oliver Arena.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director for the University of Rio Grande.