RIO GRANDE, Ohio — While Saturday night’s showdown with 13th-ranked Saint Francis University may have have resulted in a third straight loss for the University of Rio Grande, the RedStorm is quickly gaining a reputation of being anything but an easy out.
The visiting Cougars coughed up a 17-point first half lead and rallied from a fourth quarter deficit to post an 82-71 win in non-conference women’s basketball action at the Newt Oliver Arena.
Saint Francis, whose six previous wins came by an average of 34.3 points, pushed its record to 7-1 with the victory.
Rio Grande dropped to 5-4 with the loss. All four setbacks have seen furious comeback efforts fall just short.
The RedStorm appeared ticketed for the same fate that found each of the Cougars’ first six victims after a pair of free throws by Meleah Leatherman gave SFU a 38-21 lead with 3:16 remaining in the first half.
But Rio began a methodical rally, slicing the deficit to 38-31 by halftime and drawing even at 50-50 on a three-point goal by senior Sydney Holden (Wheelersburg, OH) with 2:03 left in the third quarter.
A free throw by freshman Samaria Rodgers-Gossett (Columbus, OH) just 40 seconds later gave the RedStorm their first lead since a little more than two minutes into the contest.
Rio still had the lead, 59-58, after an offensive rebound and stickback by Holden with 6:55 remaining in the game, but the Cougars responded with a 10-2 run over the next 1:51 to regain a 68-61 advantage.
It was a lead that SFU wouldn’t relinquish.
The RedStorm twice closed within three, including 70-67 after a jumper by junior Chyna Chambers (Columbus, OH) with 3:08 remaining, but they got no closer.
Saint Francis answered Chambers’ jumper with the game’s next nine points as part of a 12-4 game-ending run.
The Cougars, who shot 61.5 percent in the second half (16-for-26) and 52 percent for the game (26-for-50), were led by Emma Applegate’s 19 points and six rebounds.
Kara Gerka added 13 points to the winning effort, Sidney Crowe finished with 12 and Leatherman tossed in 11.
Lauren McBryar and Cassidy Crawford scored 10 points each, while Savannah Buck had six assists, three blocks and three steals.
Holden led Rio Grande with 21 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, while freshman Lexi Woods (Waverly, OH) had 17 points.
Sophomore Avery Harper (Seaman, OH) and Chambers finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively, for the RedStorm, who shot 57 percent over the final two quarters.
Both teams committed 25 turnovers in the contest.
Rio Grande returns to action against Union, Ky. next Saturday as part of the NAIA DII Showcase in Kingsport, Tenn.
Tipoff is set for 4:15 p.m. at the Meadowview Conference Resort and Convention Center.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.