By Drew Karpen
For a team filled with 13 freshmen and sophomores, it was the two seniors on the Allegheny women’s basketball team that shined the brightest in the final regular season home game.
Daryl Ford scored 17 of her 19 points in the second half and Ann Ryan was on fire with 14 of her career-high 18 points in the first half to help the Gators defeat the College of Wooster, 67-57, in North Coast Athletic Conference play on Wednesday night at the David V. Wise Center.
“It means a lot because I knew when they started face guarding me in the second half, Daryl was ready to go,” Ryan said about the senior play. “She got 19 points and I got 18. She finished out the second half and I had the first.”
With the combination of the Gators’ win and losses by Wittenberg to DePauw, Ohio Wesleyan to Kenyon and Denison to Oberlin on Wednesday night, Ford and Ryan will have the opportunity to play on their homecourt at least one more time as they locked up at least the fourth seed in the conference tournament and a home playoff game.
“I think it is big,” Allegheny head coach Kate Costanzo said about the home playoff game. “There is nothing like playing at the Wise Center.”
With both teams entering the contest with a two-game win streak, something had to give.
The Fighting Scots (9-15, 4-11 NCAC) jumped out to an early 7-2 lead and increased it to 11-4 before Ryan took over. Ryan scored the first eight points for the Gators (14-10, 9-6).
After a drive to the basket by freshmen Jessica Mrdjenovich cut the deficit to 11-10, the Gators would take their first lead of the game on a pair of free throws by Ford.
The teams remained neck-and-neck until the final minutes of the first half when Allegheny used a 6-0 spurt to take a 27-23 lead into the break.
Wooster came out of the locker room running, going on an 8-3 run to tie it up at 31-31. The Fighting Scots’ Rachel Huxhold hit a 3-pointer to even the score.
Ford would answer back with an old-fashioned 3-point play to put the Gators back up by three.
The Fighting Scots would rally back to take a 35-34 lead, which also ended up being their final lead of the game.
After a Ford bucket, Mrdjenovich drilled her second three of the game, giving the Gators a 39-35 lead.
Allegheny slowly started to build upon its lead and with 6:54 remaining, it recorded its first double digit lead of the game, 55-45, when Ford hit another jumper.
Ryan put the icing on the cake with her fastbreak layup with 45. 5 seconds remaining. The basket pushed Ryan to her new career-high.
“I knew about it but it would have been just as rewarding if I dished it to one of my teammates,” Ryan said. “I’m a team player but it was a good feeling to reach that.”
With a win on Saturday at Kenyon, the Gators would receive the third seed in the NCAC tournament thanks to the Denison loss to Oberlin.
“As always this conference is so competitive,” Costanzo said. “We weren’t necessarily expecting Oberlin to beat Denison but it’s good. We are in third alone right now which is a great place to be. We are just going to go out there to Kenyon and play our best and hopefully come out of there with a W.”