PIKVEILLE, Ky. — It was a comeback effort which did its level best to reach epic proportion.
But, in the end, it finished as a gut-wrenching defeat.
The University of Rio Grande erased a 20-point deficit with a furious fourth quarter rally, but the University of Pikeville got a pair of free throws from Sierra Feltner with 4.4 seconds remaining to hang on for a 94-92 win over the RedStorm, Tuesday night, in non-conference women’s basketball action at Appalachian Wireless Arena.
The Bears, who were among the schools receiving votes in the NAIA Division I preseason coaches’ poll, upped their record to 5-0 with the win.
Rio Grande slipped to 1-1 with the loss.
Any thoughts of late-game dramatics and a frantic finish were all but non-existent after a three-pointer by Hailey Free gave UPike a 73-53 advantage with just 42 seconds left in the third quarter, but Rio got a conventional three-point play by freshman Lexi Woods (Waverly, OH) before the close of the period and then continued their methodical comeback into the final stanza.
A three-pointer by freshman Kaylie Apperson (McConnelsville, OH) sliced the deficit to three, 80-77, with 3:57 left in the game, but a trifecta by UPike’s Theodora Odia on the Bears’ ensuing possession pushed the margin back to six with just over three minutes remaining.
Another conventional three-point play by Woods got the RedStorm within one, 85-84, with 1:37 remaining, but the Bears responded by reeling off the next six points to take a 91-84 advantage after a pair of Brianna Burbridge free throws with 28 seconds left.
Rio completed the comeback, though, when freshman Reagan Willingham (Ashville, OH) banked in a three-pointer of her own with 5.7 seconds remaining to knot the score at 92-all, but Feltner was fouled on the ensuing inbounds play and canned the go-ahead free throws.
The RedStorm’s last hope at a game-tying or game-winning bucket ended when senior Sydney Holden’s (Wheelersburg, OH) pass in the lane to sophomore teammate Avery Harper (Seaman, OH) was knocked away as time expired.
Feltner led a quartet of double-digit scorers for Pikeville with 20 points, while Kayla Mullins scored 11, Burbridge netted 11 and Mary Englert added 10. Feltner and Burbridge also shared team honors with Odia with three assists each.
Yurleis Estrada led the Bears, who outscored Rio at the free throw line, 18-7, with nine rebounds.
Apperson led Rio Grande with a career-high 27 points, hitting 10 of her 11 shots overall and seven of her eight attempts from distance. Rio finished 15-for-26 from beyond the arc as a team.
Holden finished with 22 points of her own, 16 of which came in the second half, while also tying Harper for game-high honors with 10 rebounds. Woods scored a career-high 13 points and Willingham equaled a career-best mark with 11 of her own, while freshman Samaria Rodgers-Gossett (Columbus, OH) handed out a game-high seven assists.
The RedStorm shot 63.6 percent from the field in the second half (21-for-33) and 54.7% for the game (35-for-64), while also outrebounding the Bears, 37-33.
Rio Grande returns to action on Friday when it hosts Ohio Valley University in the opening round of the Bevo Francis Invitational Tournament at the Newt Oliver Arena.
Tipoff is slated for 4 p.m.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.