RIO GRANDE, Ohio — If Tuesday night’s home finale for the University of Rio Grande women’s basketball team were a motion picture, it’s safe to say the ending was one which didn’t match the movie’s opening minutes.
The RedStorm coughed up a 25-point first half lead before rallying in the closing seconds for a 78-77 Senior Night win over Ohio Valley University at the Newt Oliver Arena.
Senior Jaida Carter (New Philadelphia, OH)’s jumper in the lane with 7.5 seconds remaining provided the winning points for Rio Grande, which improved to 16-13 with the non-conference victory.
The win also securing a winning season for head coach David Smalley’s squad in the process.
Ohio Valley, an NCAA Division II school, fell to 0-22 with the loss and remained winless in 12 all-time meetings with Rio.
The Fighting Scots have now lost 56 consecutive games dating back to a 79-55 win over Penn State-Beaver on Jan. 24, 2017.
OVU had one last opportunity to dispose of the streak after Carter’s go-ahead bucket, but Ayanna Ford missed a pair of free throws with 1.6 seconds left which could’ve tied or won the game.
Rio Grande senior Megan Liedtke (Beverly, OH) rebounded Ford’s second miss and held the ball as time expired.
Late-game suspense didn’t look to be part of the script as Rio opened up a 25-point advantage, 42-17, after a pair of free throws by sophomore Jimi Howell (Barberton, OH) with 2:42 left before halftime.
The RedStorm led by 19 points at the intermission and held the same cushion, 52-33, after a pair of free throws by Carter with 4:35 remaining in the third quarter, but the Fighting Scots roared to life and reeled of 19 of the game’s next 24 points to pull within five, 57-52, after a pair of free throws with 47.5 seconds left in the period.
OVU continued to chip away and closed to within one point on four separate occasions in the fourth quarter before taking a 77-76 lead thanks to a pair of free throws by Akiya Brown with 20.4 seconds left, setting the stage for the dramatic finish.
Carter knifed her way through three defenders for the go-ahead basket on Rio’s ensuing possession before fouling Ford on her drive to the rim on the Scots’ final possession.
Ford, a 75 percent free throw shooter on the season, misfired on each of her two attempts to set off a boisterous celebration by the RedStorm and their fans.
Senior Chelsy Slone (Gallipolis, OH) scored a game- and career-high 26 points to pace Rio Grande. She also had seven rebounds to go along with a game-high four assists and team-best three steals.
Carter finished with 23 points in the winning effort, while freshman Avery Harper (Seaman, OH) added 13 points and Howell finished with 11 rebounds.
The RedStorm survived 22 turnovers by out rebounding the Fighting Scots, 44-40, and connecting on 30 of its 38 free throw attempts.
Ohio Valley was led by Imani Ward, who had 23 points to go along with a game-high 13 rebounds and five steals.
Brittany Hill scored 21 points and had four of the Scots’ seven three-point goals during the second half comeback, while Brown had 16 points and a team-high three assists.
Ohio Valley shot 53.3 percent in the second half (16-for-30) after connecting on just 25.6 percent of it attempts (10-for-39) in the first half.
Rio Grande will wrap up its regular season schedule on Saturday against River States Conference regular season champion West Virginia University-Tech.
Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center in Beckley, W.Va.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.