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Women's Basketball Escape Ban Johnson Arena With 76-72 Win

Photo by Marietta's Rebecca Wheeler
Photo by Marietta's Rebecca Wheeler

MARIETTA, Ohio - The Wilmington College women's basketball team overcame a six-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter to defeat Marietta College 76-72 in an Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) contest held at Ban Johnson Arena on Friday evening.

The first quarter was played a fast pace as both teams shot over 40 percent from the field and made eight field goals. Five of those Pioneer field goals were triples, but the Fightin' Quakers made up that deficit by converting 5-of-6 from the free throw line. The result was a 22-21 Wilmington lead after 10 minutes. Neither team led by more than a possession for the majority of the second quarter until consecutive baskets from Michelle Lee and Kelis Jones gave WC a 39-35 lead with 2:33 to go in the quarter. The Quakers would maintain and even grow that lead to six (46-40) as Kennedy Lewis ended the half with a basket.

The Quakers' lead would stay six points through the first four minutes of the third quarter, but the Pioneers outscored Wilmington 13-5 over the final five-plus minutes to lead 59-57 after 30 minutes. Entering the fourth quarter didn't seem to pause the Pioneers' momentum as Marietta in consecutive triples midway through the period to pull ahead 69-63, the hosts largest lead of the game. Wilmington's defense held Marietta there for several possessions, however, as baskets from McKayla Binkley and Haley Cook pulled the visitors within two. Jordyn Kiser answered for Marietta with a layup at the 2:19 mark, but an offensive rebound and putback from McKayla Binkley put the deficit back at two points (71-69) with 1:42 left. Both teams came up empty on their next possessions, and another McKayla Binkley layup tied the game with 1:04 to play.

After a timeout from Marietta, McKayla Binkley once again came up with a huge play, this time on defense, intercepting a pass and scoring in transition to make the score 73-71. Both teams converted 1-of-2 from the free throw line, setting up the Pioneers with the ball down by two with 15 seconds left. An attempted entry pass into the post was wide, and Zahrya Bailey sealed the game with two free throws after being fouled.

"I thought we struggled in the third quarter, but our team continued to battle," Interim Head Women's Basketball Coach Janel Blankespoor said. "Credit to McKayla Binkley for getting that steal and layup at the end. McKayla has an incredible will to win. She's still highly motivated and has a lot to play for."

Wilmington shot 29-of-72 (40.3 percent) for the game, but struggled from distance, converting just 2-of-15 (13.3 percent) attempts. The Quakers overcame that with a 57-38 rebounding advantage including 24-14 on the offensive glass as well as making 16 free throws compared to just four for Marietta. The Pioneers made 12-of-32 (37.5 percent) from distance.

"Our rebounding comes down to heart and pride, and I challenged them in the third quarter," said Blankespoor. "That's been a point of emphasis for our team this season, along with increased defensive intensity."

Individually, McKayla Binkley led all scorers with 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting to go along with nine rebounds. Lewis turned in a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds to go along with four assists.

Wilmington (4-3) will look for its first Saturday victory when Marietta comes to Fred Raizk Arena for a 6 p.m. contest.