BEREA, Ohio – The No. 10 nationally-ranked and top-seeded Baldwin Wallace University women's basketball team defeated No. 25 nationally-ranked and second-seeded crosstown rival John Carroll University by a final score of 80-63, to win the 2020 OAC Tournament Championship in Ursprung Gymnasium.
BW (26-2) captured its first tournament title since 2015 and its seventh in program history, after beating the defending two-time OAC Tournament champions, John Carroll (23-5). The Yellow Jackets' seven league tournament championships now tie them with Capital University for the most all-time. BW added some surplus hardware to its historic 2019-20 campaign, as it also claimed the OAC regular season title just 10 days ago. This season marks the first OAC Championship sweep for the Yellow Jackets since the 2007-08 season.
BW earned its second consecutive trip to the "Big Dance" with an automatic bid, after qualifying via an at-large selection last season. It will be the Yellow Jackets' 15th appearance in the NCAA Tournament, which once again ties them with Capital for the most among active OAC teams.
The 2020 OAC All-Tournament team, which was announced immediately following today's game, included tournament Most Valuable Player Award recipient, BW senior guard/forward Hannah Fecht (Hilliard/Davidson), as well as BW senior guard/forward Kara Marshall (Copley/Akron Archbishop Hoban), John Carroll senior guard/forward Nicole Heffington, John Carroll sophomore center Olivia Nagy, Marietta junior forward Marlo Taylor, and Ohio Northern freshman guard Brynn Serbin.
BW extended its season-long win streak to 12 consecutive games, and remained perfect on its home floor, improving to 15-0 on the year. The Yellow Jackets also improved their all-time series record against the crosstown rival Blue Streaks to 58-26.
BW's offense was led by three scorers in double-figures. Fecht lived up to her MVP recognition as she arguably chalked up the best performance of her collegiate career, scoring a career-high 24 points on 7-7 shooting from the field, 5-5 from beyond the arc, and 5-5 at the stripe, in addition to five rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Senior All-OAC and Academic All-OAC guard Riley Schill (Sheffield Village/Elyria Catholic) chipped in with 11 points, game-highs of seven assists and four steals, as well as four rebounds. Junior Sydney Diedrich (Chardon/Gilmour Academy) was an integral contributor off the bench, pouring in 13 points to go along with a career-high-tying four three-pointers in the victory.
The John Carroll attack was spearheaded by three scorers in double-digits. Junior guard/forward Nicole Heffington garnered team-highs of 17 points, eight rebounds, and two steals. Meanwhile, the OAC's leading shot-blocker, and second-leading scorer and rebounder, sophomore center Olivia Nagy contributed with 14 points, six boards, and a game-high four blocks in the defeat.
After giving up a basket on John Carroll's opening offensive possession, BW came out of the gate gelling on both sides of the floor. The Yellow Jackets rolled to a 15-3 run in the opening quarter's first 5:47 of action, and ended the quarter as strongly as the first, scoring the frame's last eight points. Its period-ending run was capped off by a buzzer-beating Diedrich three-pointer to take a commanding 16-point lead. The Yellow Jackets solid performance in the opening quarter could be credited to a 64.3 percent shooting performance, including a 62.5 percent rate from beyond the arc.
BW continued its dominant play in the second period, increasing its lead over the Blue Streaks to 20 points at the 3:57 mark. Sensing a dwindling deficit, the Blue Streaks were able to generate an 8-3 run to come within 15 points headed to the break. The Yellow Jackets had a terrific half on the boards, raking in 19 in comparison to the OAC rebounding leader John Carroll's 16. BW also limited the Blue Streaks' opportunities from deep, as they failed to drain a three-pointer for the entire first half.
As was the theme for the game, the Yellow Jackets got off to a great start in the third quarter, outscoring John Carroll 10-3 in the frame's first 2:36. Desperately trying to not let the game get out of reach, The Blue Streaks were able to exchange baskets with BW for the remainder of the quarter to limit the damage, but still had to deal with a 20-point deficit at the quarter's conclusion.
The Yellow Jackets were able to contain John Carroll's attempt to mount a comeback until the final three minutes, when the Blue Streaks constructed a 8-1 run to narrow the gap as close as 14 points, with 1:39 left in regulation. John Carroll then needed to rely on putting BW on the foul line to maximize its possessions. However, The Yellow Jackets would not be fazed, as they hit eight of their final ten free throws to secure the victory and the OAC Tournament Championship.
BW will return to the court next weekend, as they await the release of the 2020 NCAA Division III women's basketball tournament bracket, that will be announced live on Monday, March 2 on NCAA.com's main webpage at 2:30 p.m.