WESTERVILLE – Sloppy road conditions slowed down the Heidelberg University women's basketball team on their way to Otterbein University, but for the 18 players on the bus, it was time well spent. Each player saw action as the Student Princes closed the 2014-15 regular season with a 76-71 win over the Cardinals on Saturday.
Heidelberg (10-15, 8-10 OAC) will be the No. 6 seed in the Ohio Athletic Conference tournament which begins on Monday. With the tournament's ladder format – which awards double-byes to the top two seeds -- Heidelberg will host a first round game.
"We played great team basketball and had a lot of fun today," said head coach Morgan Shriver. "It was nice to get some confidence flowing before tournament time. It was nice that everyone that traveled was able to play today and finish the regular season with a win."
The Heidelberg opponent has yet to be determined, as snow and ice forced the Marietta/Ohio Northern and Muskingum/John Carroll games to be postponed until Sunday. If Marietta (9-15, 5-12 OAC) upsets Ohio Northern (19-5, 15-2 OAC), the Pioneers earn the No. 7 seed and Mount Union falls to the No. 8 slot. If the Pioneers lose, Mount Union moves up to No. 7.
Otterbein slips to 5-20, 2-16 in conference, and will not make the tournament.
On Saturday, Heidelberg led wire-to-wire. The Student Princes hit six 3-pointers in the first 13+ minutes – including three by Shelby Dearth -- and took a 38-17 lead. Dearth finished with 11 points
Over the remainder of the half, Otterbein outscored Heidelberg 16-7. After the Cardinals had closed to within nine points, Jackie Abrecht drained a 3-pointer with less than 10 seconds left in the half. The bucket helped HU gather a bit of momentum as the teams trotted to the locker room with the Tricolor up 45-33.
In the second half, the Student Princes withstood several Cardinal runs. A 10-0 Otterbein run, which brought the home team to within six with 12:39 remaining, was halted by a three-point play by Theresa Jackson. Another bucket by Jackson and a pair of free throws by Paige Ricketts ran The Berg's lead back up to 13. Ricketts and Jackson each finished with a team-high 12 points.
"Theresa and Shelby were able to connect on big shots which helped with the overall confidence of the team," said Shriver.
Yet again, the Cardinals seized the momentum – outscoring Heidelberg 11-2 over a four-minute stretch. The run made the score 60-56 with 6:05 remaining, but the Student Princes would bounce back once more.
As part of Heidelberg's 13-3 spurt over the next four minutes, Allie Hawkins buried a 3-pointer and Marisa Liburdi scored four points. The outburst re-inflated the HU cushion to 73-59 with 2:18 left. From there, Heidelberg held on for the five-point win.
Four Student Princes finished in double-figures, with Hawkins adding 10 points. Ricketts and Liburdi each grabbed seven boards as the Student Princes out-rebounded Otterbein 39-20.
Heidelberg outshot the hosts, 52% to 37% from the floor and 60% to 23% from beyond the arc. Otterbein was able to stay close because Heidelberg committed 30 turnovers, compared to 14 by the Cards.
"We need to learn to take better care of the basketball," said Shriver, who has guided the Student Princes to tournament berths in each of her two seasons as head coach. "We played a little too loose in certain situations."
Monday's tournament game will start at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors (62+older) and $2 for non-OAC students. OAC students are admitted free of charge. OAC season passes are not valid for the postseason, though OAC lifetime passes will be honored.