WILMINGTON – Mary Moyer’s three-pointer with just under 2 seconds to play Tuesday lifted the Wilmington College women’s basketball team to a 59-56 win over Denison in the season opener at Hermann Court’s Fred Raizk Arena.
Moyer wasn’t the primary option on the final basket.
“It was do what you need to do; a player stepping up,” said WC head coach Jerry Scheve. “We didn’t execute the play we wanted to execute. They fooled us. We got confused.”
Wilmington took possession with 25 seconds to go in the fourth quarter and the two teams tied at 56-56. The Denison defense thwarted every WC option until Ashley Andracki passed to Moyer in the left corner.
Holding the ball for what seemed like an eternity, Moyer finally opted to shoot as the clock neared 0:00. The lefty’s line drive shot hit the net and beat the clock to give Wilmington a 59-56 lead.
Denison called timeout with 1.6 seconds to play but was unable to convert a wide open three-pointer at the buzzer.
Moyer, a Clinton-Massie graduate, finished with 12 points, six rebounds and two assists. More importantly, she was the primary defender on Denison’s All-America post player Jordan Holmes.
“I had a meeting with coach and we talked about my main role … my defense and rebounding,” said Moyer. “We stopped her from doing a lot of what she does offensively. Everybody did what they needed to do.”
Mackenzie Campbell led Wilmington (1-0) with 13 points.
Emily Harman and Andracki had eight points each and Savannah Hooper, a Wilmington High School graduate, had seven points.
Gaby Mehringer led Denison with 18 points. Holmes had five points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots.
Despite losing all of a 15-point second half lead, Wilmington was able to hang on for a big season-opening win. WC has now won five of its last six games dating back to the 2015-16 season.
“If we would have lost, I think it would have just fueled the fire to come back this weekend,” said Moyer. “We have so many returners. Tonight showed us we have some things to work on but we are a better team than we were last year.”
Moyer scored the first five points of the game for Wilmington, displaying her versatile offensive game. She executed the pick and roll with Ashley Andracki on the opening two pointer then banked a three-point shot later in the quarter.
Wilmington defense started off strong then tailed off late in the quarter as Denison made a run. The Big Red turned a 10-5 deficit into an 18-16 lead after one period.
The WC defense forced two turnovers to start the second period, Campbell converting the first into a basket. Later in the second, Hooper scored from in close then turned playmaker when she assisted on Andracki’s three-pointer on the next possession.
Wilmington had two shot-clock violations in the second quarter. In addition, the Quakers were hit with a lane violation on a made free throw.
The Fightin’ Quakers were down 22-18 then scored 10 unanswered points to grab a 28-22 lead late in the second quarter. Denison responded with a 5-0 run of its own to get back in it.
Wilmington closed the half on a 7-2 run, highlighted by Brittaney Jefferson’s three-pointer from the left wing with 8 seconds to go. WC led 36-29 at the half.
Wilmington scored the first eight points of the second half, putting together a blend of aggressive defense and precision offense with four players scoring in the run. The Fightin’ Quakers held their biggest lead of the night at 44-29 with 6:44 to play in the third.
Denison battled back, scoring the next six points to get within nine, 44-35, at the 4:22 mark.
Wilmington seemed to be running out of steam at this point. Denison started a 16-5 run that went into the fourth quarter and cut the WC lead to 49-45 with just under eight minutes to play.
After grabbing two offensive rebounds, Wilmington cashed in when Hooper drove the lane and found Andracki open along the right baseline for two, and 54-49 WC lead.
Jefferson to Moyer as the shot clock was winding down gave WC a 56-52 lead. Denison came back to cut it to 56-54 then Holmes flexed her defensive muscle at the other end with a blocked shot.
FAN OF THE GAME: Wilmington’s Beth Persicano won a free Donato’s pizza as the Fan of the Game.
LAST SEASON: Wilmington lost at Denison 64-49 in the 2015-16 season opener.
DIVISION III FIRST: Holmes came in to the opener needing 18 blocks – she had five – to become the first NCAA Div. III women’s basketball players with 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 blocked shots.
ENCORE: Jefferson, a senior from Dayton Chaminade-Julienne High School, came into the season with 868 career points. She finished with six points. After starting just five games in her first two WC seasons, Jefferson started all 27 games a year ago.
INJURY REPORT: Coach Scheve said he has lost Ellie Kivell to injury. The 5-4 junior is a Lakota West High School graduate.
UP NEXT: The Quakers will meet Olivet Nazarene 6 p.m. Friday in the first game of the Damon’s/Hampton Inn Tip-Off Tournament at Fred Raizk Arena.
The second game Friday is scheduled to tip-off 8 p.m. with Carnegie-Melon facing Transylvania.
The consolation game is set for a 1 p.m. Sunday tipoff with the championship game scheduled to start at 3 p.m.
Carnegie-Melon features one of the top post players in the country in 6-1 senior Lisa Murphy. Facing Murphy comes just days after Wilmington played Denison and Jordan Holmes, another All-America post player.
Last season, Wilmington played a pair of two-point games in the Tip-Off Tournament. The Quakers defeated Mount St. Joseph 61-59 in the first round them lost to Franklin 63-61 in the championship game.