KINGSPORT, Tenn. — When a women’s division was added to the NAIA DII Showcase in 2016, the University of Rio Grande and Union (Ky.) College played a wild, foul-filled affair that produced 82 combined free throw attempts.
Saturday afternoon, the RedStorm and the Bulldogs got together again with similar results – lots of free throws, lots of points…and a Union win.
UC’s Brooke Hammonds went 16-for-24 at the charity stripe, finishing with a game-high 32 points, 19 rebounds and five steals to lead the ‘Dogs in a 91-86 win over Rio Grande at the MeadowView Marriott Conference Center and Resort.
Union improved to 6-3 with the victory.
Rio Grande slipped to 5-5 with a fourth straight loss.
The RedStorm actually finished with two more field goals than the Bulldogs (29-27) and a whopping edge in rebounding (53-34), but head coach David Smalley’s club was done in at the free throw line where UC finished 31-for-45 and Rio went 19-for-30.
Hammonds, who also had a team-high three assists, was a one-woman wrecking crew and helped UC open up a 15-point second quarter lead.
Rio, as it has done in each loss during the current slide, rallied and sliced the deficit to four, 40-36, by halftime.
The comeback came full circle when freshman Reagan Willingham (Ashville, OH) canned a three-pointer with 1:13 remaining in the third quarter to give the RedStorm a 58-57 advantage.
The pendulum – in a contest that featured nine ties and 13 lead changes – swung back and forth throughout the bulk of the final quarter.
Rio’s final lead of the day came at 81-79 after a free throw by junior Chyna Chambers (Columbus, OH) with 3:23 left to play, but the Bulldogs countered with a 9-1 run of their own – including five points by Hammonds – to take an 88-82 lead with 28 seconds remaining.
Senior Sydney Holden (Wheelersburg, OH) hit a three-pointer with 12 seconds left to get the RedStorm within three, but they’d get no closer in the waning seconds.
Hammonds went 3-for-4 at the free throw line in the final 10 seconds to seal the victory.
The Bulldogs also got 15 points from Haley Tye, 14 from LeAsia Linton and 13 from Chariss Wilson in the winning effort.
Sophomore Avery Harper (Seaman, OH) had 17 points and a career-high 16 rebounds to pace Rio Grande in the loss, while Chambers had 17 points of her own to go along with five assists and two steals.
Freshman Lexi Woods (Waverly, OH) had 11 points for the RedStorm, while Holden finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Rio Grande returns to action Sunday afternoon when it closes out the weekend event against the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
Tipoff is set for 4:15 p.m.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.