RIO GRANDE, Ohio — Mackenzie Lee scored 15 points to lead three Campbellsville University players in double figures and the 10th-ranked Tigers held on down the stretch to slip past the University of Rio Grande, 73-70, Thursday night, in Mid-South Conference women’s basketball action at the Newt Oliver Arena.
The Tigers, who improved to 12-2 overall and 6-0 in the MSC with a seventh straight win, dodged the upset bullet in a game that featured six ties and 13 lead changes.
Rio Grande saw its three-game win streak snapped, slipping to 5-9 overall and 0-6 in league play.
“It definitely was one that got away and, if there’s a positive out of it, our kids understand that,” Rio Grande head coach David Smalley said. “I was proud of the way we played, our energy and our effort. Campbellsville not the 10th-ranked team in the country for no reason - they’ve got a really nice ballclub.I thought we gave them everything they wanted tonight.”
Campbellsville didn’t take the lead for good until a layup by Daizah Kimberland with 8:04 remaining made it 58-57 and the Tigers biggest lead of the night was just five points, including 72-67 after Lee hit one of two free throws with 1:05 left to play.
Rio also managed to make the final minute just as interesting.
Senior guard Shardai Morrison-Fountain connected on a conventional three-point play with 12.6 seconds left to get the RedStorm to within 72-70.
Campbellsville’s Courtney Clifton was fouled on the ensuing inbounds play and, subsequently, hit the first of her two free throw attempts to push the Tigers’ lead to 73-70 with 9.2 seconds left.
Clifton’s second try from the charity stripe was off the mark, though, and the RedStorm came away with the rebound to give Morrison-Fountain a final chance to send the game to overtime.
However, after being unable to get an open look at the basket, Morrison-Fountain instead tried to draw contact from Campbellsville’s Mary Jehlik, but her off-balance heave from beyond the arc on the left wing with three seconds left failed to draw iron and the rebound was knocked out of bounds as time expired.
Rio Grande led throughout the game’s first 8-1/2 minutes — by as many as seven points just over four minutes into the contest — before Campbellsville tied the game at 17-17 on a conventional three-point play by Keisha Compton with 11:36 left before the break.
A jumper by Jehlik 33 seconds later gave the Tigers their first lead of the night and set a nailbiting final 31 minutes into motion.
Morrison-Fountain nailed a three-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to force a 38-all deadlock at the intermission, but the Tigers rebounded and opened up a 52-47 cushion following a bucket by Lee with 13:35 remaining.
Rio Grande responded with an 8-0 run of its own to take a three-point lead and held the same advantage, 57-54, after a layup by Morrison-Fountain with 10:06 left, but the Tigers ran off six consecutive points of their own - including the go-ahead basket by Kimberland - to grab the lead once and for all.
The RedStorm drew to within two points on four occasions in the final 6:16, but could get no closer.
“We had our looks,” Smalley said. “I know we had four point-blank looks at the basket, in the paint - two in one possession - that, if one or two of those go down, maybe we end getting a ‘W’. They didn’t go down, though. But those are the shots we want and we’ll keep working hard to make sure they do go down.”
Rio Grande hit 17 of its 31 first half shots (54.8 percent), but cooled off to 33.3 percent (11-for-33) in the second half.
Morrison-Fountain poured in a game- and season-high 33 points to lead Rio in a losing cause. She also had six rebounds and three steals.
Freshman forward Sarah Bonar finished with 12 points in the loss despite fouling out with 7:32 remaining in the game, while freshman forward Julia Heaberlin had a team-high eight rebounds and freshman guard Nichole Mabry finished with four steals.
Clifton added 13 points in the winning effort for Campbellsville, while Jehlik netted 12 points off the bench and was one of three Tigers who had six rebounds.