Just over a year ago, the Hiram College and Mount St. Joseph University women’s basketball teams met in an emotional season opener. Lauren Hill, a freshman for the Mount, was battling an inoperable cancer, and the country rallied around her as she played her first college game.
This year, the two teams met again for the Lauren Hill Tipoff Classic on Nov. 14, 2015, to honor Hill, who died April 10, 2015. They played at Xavier University’s Cintas Center, the site of Hill’s inspirational game last season in which she scored four points.
The teams paid tribute to Hill during tipoff; both teams extended their index fingers and thumbs in an “L” shape and gathered in a circle by the basket where Hill first scored, placing the ball where she made her shot. Leading up to the game, the community continued to rally around Hill’s cause. The Cure Starts Now Foundation sponsored a telethon aimed at raising $2.2 million to find the homerun cure for cancer. They have raised more than $2 million so far.
During Saturday’s game, Hiram sophomore Mercedes Jones (Dayton, Ohio/Ponitz Career Technology Center) recorded her first career double-double to lead the Hiram to a 70-63 season opening victory. The Terriers are now 1-0 on the season, while the Lions are 0-1.
Jones finished the contest with 27 points and 14 rebounds, both of which are new career-bests. She went 9-of-14 from the field and 8-of-10 from the charity stripe.
A jumper from sophomore Allison Vannoy (Mantua, Ohio/Crestwood) allowed Hiram to open up a 6-2 lead midway through the first quarter.
The Lions would counter with a 9-1 run to take a 11-7 advantage, before the Terriers reeled off the final five points of the quarter to take a 13-11 lead after the first.
MSJ would open up a 22-17 lead with 4:20 left in the first half. Hiram would answer with a 15-3 run to close out the half, capped off on a 3-pointer by Jones in the closing seconds.
A layup by Shockley with 2:34 left in the third quarter allowed Hiram to open up a 45-32 lead. Mt. St. Joseph would trim the Terriers lead to 51-42 after three quarters.
Two free throws by Jones with 2:38 remaining gave Hiram its largest lead of the day at 66-51. The Lions would get as close as 68-63 before two free throws from Vannoy put the game away.
Hiram shot a scorching 53.2 percent from the field on 25-of-47 shooting, while limiting MSJ to 31.8 percent on 21-of-66 shooting.
The Terriers also dominated the rebounding battle, winning it 47-28, including a 40-18 edge in defensive rebounds.
Hiram will return to action on Wednesday, as they host Thiel (Pa.) in their home opener at 6 p.m.