RIO GRANDE, Ohio — It’s long been said that anything worth having shouldn’t come easy.
And for the second time in as many matchups this season — this one, with a River States Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament Championship hanging in the balance — Alice Lloyd College certainly did its part in making the University of Rio Grande earn a victory.
The Eagles forged a trio of fourth quarter ties after erasing a 16-point third quarter deficit, but the RedStorm scored nine of the game’s final 13 points to secure a 90-85 win, Tuesday night, at a raucous Newt Oliver Arena.
Rio Grande, which backed up its regular season crown in the RSC’s East Division with the tourney title, earned a program-record 30th victory in 33 outings this season.
Alice Lloyd, the league’s regular season West Division champion, had a nine-game winning streak stopped in falling to 24-5.
Both teams will represent the River States Conference in the NAIA Division II National Championship Tournament, which begins next Wednesday at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
First round pairings for the tourney will be announced Wednesday, at 7 p.m., in an online selection show at www.NAIANetwork.com.
The No. 22-ranked RedStorm, who outlasted the Eagles, 78-71, in their previous meeting on Jan. 21 in Rio Grande, appeared on their way to having a much easier time of it in Tuesday night’s rematch after a bucket by sophomore Abby Wendel (Portland, IN) with 7:44 remaining in the third quarter gave the hosts a commanding 56-40 lead.
But as it showed in a come-from-behind win over Indiana University East in last Saturday’s semifinal round, Alice Lloyd refused to go away quietly.
The Eagles closed the deficit to one, 66-65, on a 35-foot buzzer-beater by Makayla Akers at the close of the period before tying the game at 74-all on a long three-pointer by Jayla Spurlock with 5:38 left in the contest.
Miranda Wilson tied the game twice more for Alice Lloyd — hitting a three-pointer with 3:53 remaining to knot the score at 79-79 and connecting on a layup just 30 seconds later to make it 81-81 — but the Eagles never managed to get the lead.
Rio Grande went on a 5-0 run over the next two minutes — senior Alexis Payne (Deep Water, WV) twice hit one of two free throw attempts, with a conventional three-point play by junior Jaida Carter (New Philadelphia, OH) sandwiched in between — to take an 86-81 cushion before another trifecta by Spurlock got ALC within two with 1:04 left to play.
However, the Eagles got no closer in the game’s final minute.
Carter scored on a layup with 50 seconds remaining to make it 88-84 and, after Alice Lloyd’s Alex Clifton hit one of two free throws with 39.5 seconds left, Rio sophomore Sydney Holden (Wheelersburg, OH) hit a pair of free throws with 6.9 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
Carter and Holden were among five double-digit scorers for the RedStorm, finishing with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Carter scored all but two of her points in the fourth quarter, though, and Holden had all but three of her points in the final stanza.
Payne led Rio with a game-high 22 points, while junior Jasmine Smith (Canal Winchester, OH) had 17 points and a game-high 10 rebounds to go along with four assists and a game-high four steals.
Freshman Chyna Chambers (Columbus, OH) added 12 points to the winning effort.
Smith and Chambers were important in the middle two quarters, particularly, helping the RedStorm survive foul issues which forced Payne, Holden and Carter into the role of spectator for much of the stretch.
Holden also shared game-high honors in steals with Smith and had six assists to share game-high honors with Wendel.
Haley Hall led four Alice Lloyd players in double figures with 22 points, while Clifton had 20 points, eight rebounds and a game-best four blocked shots off the bench.
Miranda Wilson added 15 points and a team-high nine rebounds, while Emilie Harrell scored 10 points and blocked two shots and Kayla Wilson handed out five assists in a losing cause for the Eagles.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.