Senior forward Brenna Host (Seven Hills/Normandy) recorded her first-ever double-double with career-highs of 23 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Hiram College women’s basketball team past Denison University, 60-55, in a North Coast Athletic Conference game and regular-season and home finale at Price Gymnasium on senior day.
Hiram (9-16, 4-12 NCAC) led by as many as three points on several occasions in the early minutes of the opening half, including having a 9-6 advantage at the 13:56 mark. Denison (13-12, 8-8 NCAC) then made a run scoring six unanswered points to take the lead on its way to boasting an eight-point margin, 19-11, with 9:20 left in the first half. On the Terriers’ next offensive series, senior guard Chelsea Kovach (Lakewood) connected on a three-pointer that sparked a 16-0 scoring run that lasted 5:41 and gave the lead back to Hiram with a score of 27-19 with 3:39 left in the period. The Big Red rallied again with five straight points to cut the deficit to three points, 27-24, but the Terriers had an answer of their own with six unanswered points that included a pair of baskets by Host to extend the lead to nine points, 33-24, at the break.
Hiram led by double figures for the majority of the second half, including having its largest lead of 15 points, 51-36, with 11:07 left to play following a jumper by Host. Denison then began to chip away at the Hiram lead and outscored the Terriers, 12-3, over the span of the next 6:28 to narrow the gap to just six points, 54-48, with 4:39 to go. The Terriers had a seven-point margin, 59-52, with 20 seconds to go after one-of-two free-throws by junior guard Marisa Thomas (Lorain/Amherst), but a crucial three-pointer by Denison on its ensuing possession with 10 seconds remaining put the Big Red back within striking distance trailing by four points, 59-55. Following a Denison foul that sent Kovach to the free-throw line, Kovach made good on one-of-two attempts to put Hiram up by five points, 60-55 with eight seconds to go. The Big Red then committed a turnover allowing Hiram to run out the clock and clinch a 60-55 victory.
Denison shot 23.9 percent (17-of-71) for the game and had one player score in double figures in Sarafina Nuzzo with a game-high 25 points on nine-of-26 shooting (34.6 percent). She also grabbed 11 rebounds to complete the double-double. In addition, Nicole Coggins grabbed a game-high 12 boards.
Hiram ended up shooting 42.3 percent (22-of-52) from the floor and was led by Host’s 23 points on nine-of-15 shooting (60.0 percent) and 11 rebounds. Senior guard Calysia Smyers(Akron/Coventry) was the only other Terrier in double figures with 12 points. Junior guardDanielle Day (Newbury) grabbed 10 rebounds in addition to tallying a game-high seven assists.
Hiram will advance to the NCAC Tournament as the eighth seed and will travel to Greencastle, Ind. for a matchup against top-seeded and No. 1 nationally-ranked DePauw University on Tuesday, Feb. 19 in the quarterfinals. The start time for the game has yet to be announced.