RIO GRANDE, Ohio — Whenever the 2018-19 season finally comes to an end for the University of Rio Grande women’s basketball team, perhaps hindsight will show the RedStorm’s biggest victory was earning a chance to play in the post-season.
Head coach David Smalley’s squad, which spent the first half of the season ranked in the NAIA Division II Top 25 before a slew of injuries precipitated a late season slide, did just that with a 104-83 rout of Carlow University, Saturday afternoon, in River States Conference action at the Newt Oliver Arena.
The RedStorm improved to 15-13 overall and 6-10 in conference play with the victory, securing the East Division No. 4 seed in the upcoming RSC Tournament process.
The win was also the 550th in the 27-year career as a collegiate head coach for Smalley – all of which have been spent at his alma mater.
Carlow, which lost for the seventh straight time since defeating Rio Grande in Pittsburgh on Jan. 22, dropped to 8-20 overall and 3-12 inside the RSC.
The Celtics were playing their fifth game since losing junior center Emma Stille to a season-ending injury in a loss to Asbury University just four days after the win over the RedStorm – a game in which Stille finished with 14 points and a career-high 25 rebounds.
Nevertheless, Carlow enjoyed its largest lead of the day, 22-17, after a conventional three-point play by Gabby Olinger with 2:14 left in the first quarter.
Rio Grande rebounded with a 10-2 run close the period with a three-point lead and never trailed again.
The RedStorm led by as many as 14 points before setting on an eight-point, 52-44, halftime advantage.
The cushion remained at eight, 55-47, following a trifecta by Carlow’s Delaney Daly with 5:55 left in the third period, but Rio scored 13 of the next 16 points to extend the lead to 18 points, 68-50, after a pair of free throws by senior Chelsy Slone (Gallipolis, OH) with 3:07 left in the quarter.
The Celtics rallied to close the gap to just eight, 73-65, after a three-pointer by Emily Grandy with 9:02 remaining in the game, but got no closer.
Rio’s largest lead of the day came in the game’s final margin.
The RedStorm actually finished with the same number of field goals as the Celtics (28) and three fewer three-point goals (11-8), but outscored their guests by 24 points at the free throw line.
Rio was 40-for-53 at the charity stripe, while Carlow went 16-for-25.
Senior Jaida Carter (New Philadelphia, OH) scored a career-high 31 points and had a game-high nine rebounds to lead the RedStorm’s winning effort, while Slone had 17 points to go along with a game-high five assists and four steals.
Rio also got 17 points and eight rebounds from freshman Avery Harper (Seaman, OH), while junior Megan Duduit (Minford, OH) netted a career-high 17 points as well.
In addition to the huge edge at the free throw line, the RedStorm used a 43-27 rebounding advantage to overcome its 24 turnovers.
Carlow was led by a career-high 20 points and game-best four steals from Daly, while Megan Ost had 14 points and a team-high six rebounds.
Rio Grande will close out the home portion of its schedule on Tuesday night when it hosts NCAA Division II Ohio Valley University for Senior Night.
Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.