DEFIANCE, Ohio – The Defiance College women's basketball team won a big early season Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference test against the conference's preseason No. 1 ranked Hanover Panthers by a score of 85-80 in overtime. The win gives DC its first 3-0 start in the HCAC since 2001-2002.
The game was played at a manic pace, as Hanover used its full-court press defense from start to finish. The Jackets held an early 8-6 lead off a fast break Megan Zachrich jumper four minutes into the contest. The Panthers responded with a 7-2 run, capped off by a Courtney Prater jumper to give Hanover a three point edge with over 11 minutes left in the half.
The two teams continued to trade blows the rest of the half, with neither team able to lead by more than five points. The Yellow Jackets used a 9-5 run to end the half and go into the break with a 36-32 lead.
With three starters in foul trouble in the opening frame, the Jackets received a boost from the junior tandem of Ashley Birchmeier and Kim Bingley off the bench. Birchmeier led all scorers with seven and grabbed three boards, while Bingley added four points and four boards going into the intermission.
The Purple and Gold came out firing to begin the second stanza, as the team outscored the Panthers 10-4 to start the half and take the game's first double digit lead at 46-36 with over 16 minutes left on the clock.
Then Prater put the Panthers on her back and went on a personal 8-0 spurt in a span of two minutes to cut the Defiance lead to just two points at 46-44, forcing the Jackets to use a timeout.
Defiance responded well to Coach Morris's adjustments and came out of the break to score 11 of the games next 14 points to push the lead back to 10 at 57-47 with 10 minutes remaining.
The 10-point lead was short-lived, as Hanover continually chipped away at DC's advantage and took the lead for the first time of the second half off two Ashley Malloy free throws with 4:42 on the clock. Defiance wasted no time in taking back the lead, as senior Kim Comden scored a layup 10 seconds later to put the Jackets up 64-63.
The teams traded free throws and field goals over the next three minutes to come to a tie at 68-68 with 1:13 left in the game. The Jackets had a shot to win the game at the buzzer, as Erica King knifed into the lane and got up a shot at the horn, but the ball bounced around on the rim and did not fall for the junior and the game headed to overtime.
Zachrich started the extra session out with a bang, as the sophomore knocked down a three from the corner to give the Jackets an early three-point cushion. Hanover cut the lead to one off a free throw from Elyse Weddel with three and a half minutes remaining.
DC then outscored the Panthers by a margin of 8-3 over the next 90 seconds to increase the lead to six, with the score 79-73. The Yellow Jackets went on to hit enough free throws in the final two minutes of overtime to stave off the Panther attack and come away with an 85-80 win.
The key to the game for the Purple and Gold was shooting efficiency, as the Jackets went 30-67 from the field for a percentage of .448, while holding Hanover to 23-70 and 2-17 from beyond the arc.
Individually, Defiance received a huge game from Birchmeier off the bench. The junior shattered her previous career-high of eight points with an 18-point performance on the afternoon, including two well-timed threes and 4-5 shooting from the line. Birchmeier also grabbed six boards and added two assists, both new career bests.
Other players who played a large role in the win were Comden and Zachrich. Each scored 17 points in the game. Comden was 6-10 from the field and 4-4 at the free throw line for her second 17-point performance of the week. Zachrich scored seven of her 17 points in overtime and added seven rebounds, an assist and a steal for a complete game.
The unsung hero of the contest was point guard Rachel Ciminillo, who turned in a scrappy performance for DC. The senior narrowly missed her first-career double-double with nine points and 11 rebounds. The 11-rebound performance led the Purple and Gold in boards and was the best total of Ciminillo's career.
With the victory, the Yellow Jackets have now won four-straight games for the first time since the 2009-2010 season and have an unblemished 3-0 HCAC record. Defiance's season record is now 4-3.
DC has a week off for finals and then return to action against Franklin on Saturday, December 15. The contest will be Defiance's last home and conference game of the calendar year. The tip is scheduled for 2:00 p.m.