MECHANICSBURG, Pa. – The Baldwin Wallace University women's basketball team overcame a 13-point fourth quarter deficit to defeat Rochester Institute of Technology (N.Y.) at the buzzer 73-71 in the first round of the NCAA Division III Tournament, hosted by Messiah (Pa.) College.
The buzzer-beating win marks the 16th time in veteran head coach Cheri Harrer's career that the Yellow Jackets have reached 20 wins.
The reigning Ohio Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year, All-OAC forward Lilly Edwards (Dublin/Coffman), made the most important shot of her young career when she sank the game-winning layup to complete the Yellow Jacket (20-7) comeback. Her team-leading 21 points and 13 rebounds adds up to her fifth career double-double at the biggest stage. Sophomore forward Sydney Diedrich (Chardon/Gilmour Academy) and junior Academic All-OAC guard/forward Kara Marshall (Copley/Archbishop Hoban) contributed 11 points apiece.
Senior guard Cori Okada and senior forward Tara Lynch posted identical game-high tying marks of 23 points in the loss for RIT (19-8). Sophomore guard Sabrina Wolfe added 14 points while junior guard Brooke Stanley added 11 points to round out the double-digit scorers.
Although no one on the current roster had any previous NCAA experience, the Yellow Jackets did not display any nerves and started the game on a 7-0 run. On the other end of the floor, RIT missed five of its first six shots until halfway through the period. Both junior All-OAC and Academic All-OAC guard Kasey Hughes (Springboro) and Okada then assumed control of their respective offenses as Okada pulled her team within two points, 16-14, at the 1:58 mark. BW closed on a 5-0 run, however, including a traditional three-point play by Marshall, to take a 21-14 lead.
The second quarter proved to be the Tigers' turn for a run which was jump-started by a deep three followed by a turnover on defense. Fourteen consecutive points later, RIT had overtaken the lead and held a 36-28 advantage with 3:35 remaining. Diedrich nailed a trey to put an end to the scoring blitz before RIT went off on yet another run to pull ahead 42-31. A pair of Hughes free throws brought the Yellow Jackets within 10 points at halftime at 42-33.
A majority of the third quarter was nip and tuck as both teams' defenses started to take center stage. The Tigers began to get into foul trouble, however, and trips to the free throw line helped BW to begin a comeback. Edwards and freshman guard Sydney Snyder (Kirtland) had perfect trips to the charity stripe to cut the deficit down to 50-44 with 2:03 left. RIT recovered to go off on another run, this time 7-2, to regain an 11-point lead before junior two-time All-OAC and Academic guard Riley Schill (Sheffield Village/Elyria Catholic) made a layup for a 57-48 score heading into the final period.
Strong post play from Edwards and Diedrich helped the Yellow Jackets start the fourth quarter on a small 4-0 run, forcing a Tiger timeout. Twice, BW was able to trim the lead down to five points but RIT seemed to answer on each ensuing trip down the floor and an eventual 8-0 run gave the Tigers a 13-point lead at 67-54 with 5:39 remaining. Marshall then stepped into a three-point shot to kick the Yellow Jacket offense into high gear with a 7-0 run. Following two RIT free throws, Marshall scored five points for her own personal run, bringing the margin to just three points, 69-66, at the 2:33 mark. BW still trailed 71-67, however, with 1:35 left on the clock. Schill started the Yellow Jackets' 6-0 run with a layup before sophomore guard Gabby Garrett (Columbus/Bishop Watterson) stepped to the free throw line to tie the game at 71-71 with 29 seconds remaining. On the next defensive possession, Garrett forced a jump ball to give BW a chance to draw up the game-winning shot with 3.2 seconds left. Schill inbounded the ball to Garrett, who immediately passed back to Schill. The junior guard found Edwards with space and put the ball on the rim for the buzzer beater.
BW will face seventh nationally-ranked Messiah in the second round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament on Saturday, March 2, at 6 p.m. on Jordan Court inside Hitchcock Arena.