DEFIANCE, Ohio. – The Defiance women's basketball team built an early nine-point lead over Rose-Hulman, but the Fightin' Engineers were able come from behind and earn a hard fought 63-57 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference road victory.
After a big win over Anderson on Wednesday, the Purple and Gold were looking to build some momentum for the rest of the season. However, the loss to Rose drops the Yellow Jackets to 4-9, 1-5 HCAC, while the Engineers move up to 6-7, 4-2 HCAC.
Through the first five-plus minutes of action, the two squads traded buckets to a 10-9 score. But a quick 8-0 scoring surge by Defiance over the next two minutes pushed its advantage to 18-9 with just under 12 minutes remaining in the first period.
However, Rose-Hulman slowly chipped away at the deficit over the course of the half and a three pointer from Sheree Williams with 29 seconds left on the clock put the Engineers back on top 33-32. The Purple and Gold were not able to get off a final shot and the teams went into the intermission at that score.
15 seconds into the start of the second period, junior guard Megan Zachrich (Napoleon, Ohio / Napoleon) connected on a jumper to reclaim the Yellow Jacket lead at 34-33. Unfortunately, that was the last time the home squad held the advantage on the scoreboard.
On the next possession, Rose's Williams drained another triple that put the Engineers back on top and they quickly pushed their lead to 45-38 with 15:49 remaining.
Throughout the rest of the game, Defiance made multiple efforts to tie the things up. But RHIT was always able answer back at the other end of the court to keep DC just out of reach. On three separate occasions the Lady Jackets were able to pull within three points, but could never get any closer.
Their last attempt to tie the game came at the 1:42 mark. Another jumper from Zachrich made the Purple and Gold deficit 60-57. Then back on the defensive end, freshman guard Ashley Williams (Leipsic, Ohio / Pandora Gilboa) swiped away the ball from Rose with just over a minute left.
The Yellow Jackets went down the court and a three-point attempt from senior forward Ashley Birchmeier (Vaughnsville, Ohio / Columbus Grove) came up short. After the Engineers regained possession, they did their part from the charity stripe to seal the game and come away with the big 63-57 win.
Afterwards, head coach Jessica (Cox) Morris stated "Rose played really hard against us but we also played really well. We kept our spirit up throughout the game, but we had a lot of little mental lapses that really hurt us and defensive lapses that led to easy layups for them. It's just a couple of things that we need to clean up, but we played hard."
Coming into the matchup, Defiance had held five of its past six opponents to under 65 points and it was able to reach that mark against the Engineers. But in the low scoring and slow paced game, Rose-Hulman's 63 were enough for the victory.
RHIT was extremely efficient from the floor, posting a 55.3 percent (26-of-47) mark overall, while sinking half of its three point attempts (5-of-10). The Engineer's total shooting percentage was the highest DC had allowed all season.
The Jackets shot above their season average at 44.9 percent (22-of-49), but struggled from long range, going 1-of-6 (16.7 percent). This season, Defiance has not won a single contest when making under six three's in the game.
Both teams came into the matchup with rebounding as a main strength. But the efficient day at the offensive end led to only 27 boards for the Engineers and 24 for the Purple and Gold. It ended the Yellow Jackets string of seven-straight games of outrebounding its opponent. RHIT limited HCAC leading rebounder Kelsey Tietje (Deshler, Ohio / Patrick Henry) to one rebound on the night.
Each squad was also able to keep its turnovers down. Rose came in averaging over 26 turnovers a game and only had 15, while Defiance recorded a season low 12 turnovers.
Zachrich paced the Purple and Gold with her best performance of the season. The wing sank 6-of-10 shots and was 4-of-4 from the free-throw line for 16 points, to go along with three assists and three steals. Senior Kim Bingley (Ottawa, Ohio / Ottawa-Glandorf) also played well, scoring nine, grabbing six rebounds and notching four steals.
Next Wednesday, January 15, the Bluffton Beavers (8-5, 4-2 HCAC) will travel north to Defiance to battle the Yellow Jackets in the heated rivalry affair. Game-time is scheduled for 6 p.m.