ALLIANCE, Ohio – The Capital University women's basketball team saw its Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament run come to an end in Alliance, Ohio on Thursday night. The University of Mount Union defeated Capital by a final score of 81-72 inside The MAAC.
Thursday's final score did not reflect the type of game played between the Crusaders and Purple Raiders. At only one point did Mount Union lead by double figures, and that lead was erased in less than two minutes back in the second quarter.
Throughout the entire first half, Capital and Mount Union went blow for blow in what has come to be known as a typical slugfest between the two schools. The Purple Raiders lived by their m.o. which has been the 3-point shot, and went 7-for-20 through the first two quarters. Capital, by contrast, kept pounding the inside with different players over the first 20 minutes and found great success with its 42.9 field goal shooting percentage.
Sophomore guard Annika Wachtman (Upper Arlington, Ohio/Upper Arlington) served as a spark plug in the first half, converting nontraditional three-point plays on two different occasions. Her final came with five seconds remaining in the half where she collected an offensive rebound and hit the putback while being fouled. The ensuing free throw helped Capital creep back to within a single point heading into the locker room with the score 39-38 in Mount Union's favor.
Mount Union jumped out with a six-point run to start the second half, but again the Crusaders quelled the threat by responding with an inside presence. Seniors Kristen Thompson (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Simone Gage (Dayton, Ohio) each a hit close-range shot to close that gap. Jenna Erwin (Springfield, Ohio) then got in on the party and hit a 3-point shot in back-to-back possessions to give Capital a 54-53 lead. Tied 57-57, it came down to the decisive fourth quarter.
After being held to just five first-half points, Mount Union's Annie Bova started to come alive for the hosts when it mattered most. She emerged with 18 second-half points and 12 of those came in the fourth quarter.
The Purple Raiders went on another mini-run but for a third time Capital closed the door before it got out of hand. Nina Napolitano (Akron, Ohio) stole the ball from Katie Reed and laid it up and in off of the fast break to make for another one-point deficit. However, the Purple Raiders kept Capital off of the board for the next 1:59 and did not allow a field goal over a span of 2:53 while building its lead to five. Thompson came back and put the Crusaders in a decent place by fighting for her own rebound and hitting a fade away jumper in the paint. Mount Union answered the call and when put on the free throw line, Bova stepped up and hit six straight as part of the Purple Raiders' eight consecutive made free throws to ice the game.
Gage led the Crusaders with a season-high 19 points on her best shooting night of the season. She hit 7-of-10 field goals and went 5-for-7 from the free throw line, in addition to her five steals.
The senior class accounted for 58 of Capital's 72 points, 25 of their 38 total rebounds and all nine steals. Thompson finished with her 10th double-double of the year following a 14-point and 12-rebound performance. Erwin closed out the day with 13 points while Shelby Sigman (Bellbrook, Ohio) tallied five and four rebounds.
Off of the bench, Wachtman had a commendable night with eight points and six rebounds in 25 minutes played. Sophomore Chelsea Pla accounted for six points and two rebounds.
For the Purple Raiders, Bova finished with 23 points, four rebounds and three steals. Teammates Bella Pecchia (12), Rachel Tinkey (12) and Katie Reed (10) also finished in double figures.
Mount Union will now play Baldwin Wallace in the OAC Women's Basketball Tournament championship game on Saturday afternoon. The Yellow Jackets defeated the top-seeded Polar Bears on Thursday night.
Capital concludes its season with an overall record of 20 wins and seven losses.