WOOSTER, Ohio – Leading 44-30 at the intermission behind 15 first-half points from freshman Cat Fiorito, The College of Wooster women's basketball team held off a fervent fourth-quarter comeback effort to prevail, 70-61, over Allegheny College on Wednesday night at Timken Gymnasium.
Wednesday's victory marked the Fighting Scots' first North Coast Athletic Conference win of the season. Wooster (2-20, 1-12 NCAC) now stands tied with Allegheny (3-19, 1-12 NCAC) for the eighth and final conference tournament spot with three games remaining in the regular season.
|First-year Cat Fiorito finished with a season-high 22 points, including 15 in the first half, during Wooster's 70-61 win over Allegheny College on Wednesday.|
If current standings were to remain through the end of the regular season, a coin toss would decide the conference tournament's final seed.
Fiorito, who nearly notched a double-double with a season-high 22 points and nine rebounds, established the Scots' offensive rhythm early, scoring the opening five points for Wooster and eight of the first 11 as two and-one conversions and a put-back layup from the first-year fueled an 11-3 opening run for the Scots.
The Gators responded, however, with a run of their own – this time a 10-0 streak over a near two-minute span to take a 13-11 lead with 4:24 left in the opening period.
In reply, Wooster posted a period-closing 10-2 run with contributions from four different players, including sophomore Anna Gibbs, who finished with 14 points and game-high five assists.
Just as in the first period, Fiorito carried the Scots to open the second, laying in a put-back attempt and connecting from beyond the arc to extend the Scots' lead to 11 (26-15) with 8:13 left in the half.
Wooster continued to build its advantage, limiting Allegheny to 25 percent shooting on 16 shots in the quarter while contributions from six different Scots led Wooster to a 44-30 lead heading into the break.
Critical to the Scots' first-half lead was their ability to attack and defend around the basket, as Wooster totaled 22 points in the paint in the first half, compared the four from Allegheny. Of note, junior Aki Shurelds tallied 10 first-half points on 3-of-7 shooting, including 2-of-5 from three-point range.
Defensive intensity highlighted the Scots' third period as they forced eight turnovers and tallied six steals while holding Allegheny to just seven points in 10 minutes. Fiorito totaled three of her game-high four steals in the period and the Scots took a 22-point advantage (59-37), the team's largest of the game, heading into the fourth period.
Electing to shift to a full-court press at the start of the fourth were the Gators, who opened the fourth with a 13-0 run thanks in large part to six points from Olivia Barkley, who finished with eight to go along with a game-best 15 rebounds as the Gators found themselves within single digits (59-50) with 6:57 left to play.
Responding with a strong left-handed take to the lane was Gibbs, who missed the attempt but earned two foul shots, which she converted, to stop the run and restore Wooster's 11-point lead with just over six minutes to play.
On the other end, Allegheny's Delaney Arbore connected from mid-range as the spark for an 11-6 Gators' run, a streak she went on to cap with a fast break layup after a steal at midcourt, as suddenly the Gators trailed within two possessions (67-61) with 1:12 left to play.
Two key rebounds – one from Fiorito on the defensive end and the other by sophomore Christina Vukovich on a missed free throw by Gibbs – proved critical as the Scots limited Allegheny to one shot over the ensuing 51 seconds, while a made foul shot from Fiorito and two from Gibbs sealed the victory.
Other statistical notables include Vukovich's nine rebounds, which stands almost four above her average (5.5), and 10 total steals among the guard quartet of Gibbs, Fiorito, first-year Akwia Tilton and Shurelds.
The Scots return to action on Saturday, Feb. 11 at Ohio Wesleyan University (9-13, 6-7 NCAC) at 1 p.m.