RIO GRANDE, Ohio — Alexis Payne scored 18 points to lead a quartet of double-digit scorers for the University of Rio Grande in the RedStorm’s 80-69 win over West Virginia University-Tech, Saturday afternoon, in the semifinal round of the River States Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament at the Newt Oliver Arena.
Rio Grande, ranked No. 22 in the latest NAIA Division II Coaches’ Poll and the East Division’s No. 1 seed in the tourney, improved to 29-3 with the win and advances to Tuesday night’s title game where it will host Alice Lloyd College – an 87-83 winner over Indiana University East in Saturday’s other semifinal.
WVU-Tech, which stopped Rio’s school-record 22-game winning streak with an 18-point win in Rio Grande just three weeks ago, closed its season at 19-13 with the loss.
The Golden Bears led by six points late in the first quarter, but the RedStorm used an 8-0 scoring spurt late in the second period to rally for a 40-37 halftime lead.
Rio Grande then scored the first 11 points of the second half and eventually built a 15-point advantage, 54-39, following a three-pointer by freshman Chyna Chambers (Columbus, OH) with 6:25 left in the third quarter.
But Tech – the East Division No. 3 seed – fought back and whittled the deficit down to just four, 67-63, after a bucket by Brittany Justice with 5:02 left in the game.
The RedStorm responded with a 7-2 run of their own over the next 3-1/2 minutes, though, to stretch the cushion back to nine points and led by no less than seven points the rest of the way.
Payne, who grew up in Deep Water, W.Va. – a stone’s throw from WVU-Tech’s former campus in Montgomery, W.Va. – and who starred at Valley (Fayette) High School, located directly across the river from the old Tech campus, finished 8-for-12 from the floor and had 11 of her points in the first half. She also finished with six rebounds.
Junior Jasmine Smith (Canal Winchester, OH) added 17 points in the win for Rio, while junior Jaida Carter (New Philadelphia, OH) had 16 points and a game-best 11 rebounds and Chambers tossed in 11 points.
Carter’s 11 rebounds equaled a career-high.
Rio Grande survived 25 turnovers by shooting 58.8 percent from the floor (30-for-51) and outrebounding the Golden Bears, 37-26.
Katelyn Byrd led four double-figure scorers for WVU-Tech with 14 points, while also pulling down a team-high six rebounds.
Alexandra Combs had 12 points in a losing cause for the Golden Bears, while Zjhane West finished with 11 and Laura Requena had 10 points.
Tech shot just 32 percent in the second half (10-for-31) and 39.7 percent (23-for-58) for the game.
Tuesday night’s championship game against Alice Lloyd – the top seed out of the RSC’s West Division – is set for 7 p.m.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.
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