HIRAM, Ohio – A pair of free throws in the waning seconds proved the difference as Hiram women's basketball dropped a 66-64 decision to Wittenberg University in a competitive matchup in Price Gymnasium on Saturday afternoon.
39 minutes could not find a clear winner as the two sides saw the score knotted at 64-64 with 33 seconds remaining. Down a pair, Hiram's Allison Vannoy connected on pressure free throws to tie the score for the seventh time.
The fourth quarter alone was a back-and-forth affair, seeing four ties and five lead changes.
Following a Wittenberg timeout, the Tigers' Alex Kiess was fouled on a drive to the basket. She calmly knocked down both shots, pushing the visitors ahead, 66-64, with six seconds to play.
Hiram was unable to respond on the other end, as freshman Tashauna Wright's drive to the hoop just missed the mark, giving Wittenberg the edge as time expired.
The end was a fitting one for a game that saw neither team lead by more eight points throughout the entirety of the contest.
Wittenberg came out of the gates strong, pushing ahead by eight in the first quarter (10-2) by knocking down their first four shots. The lead, however, would prove to be the largest of the day.
Hiram came back in the quarter, using a 15-3 run to turn the eight-point deficit into a four-point advantage with 1:40 to play in the frame. Continuing her solid all-around effort, junior Erica Johnson totaled nine points in the swing, which was also aided by three-point baskets from Allison Vannoy and Wright.
Johnson posted her fourth double-double in six games, tallying 11 points to go along with 20 rebounds and a career-high six assists. Her rebound total was the second time in the last three outings that she has posted at least 20 boards.
Leading by one heading into the second quarter (19-18), Hiram would open up their largest lead of the night. The Terriers outscored the Tigers 11-5 through the first five minutes to take a 30-23 advantage with 4:56 remaining in the half.
The freshman guard led all scorers in the game, finishing the day with 18 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including knocking down four triples. Her point total matched her career high which she set against Chapman on Dec. 21.
Still leading by six with 2:14 to play in the half, the Wittenberg defense locked down, holding the Terriers scoreless, knotting the game at 35-35 at halftime.
The Terriers kept things close in the third quarter by knocking down four triples in the frame. Branch canned a pair out of the halftime break, with the second giving Hiram a one-point advantage (44-43) with 5:38 to play.
Following back-to-back buckets by the Tigers, Bri Burgos scored her first of the half, which was followed by a three from Scott. The triple helped Hiram retake the lead, 49-47. Scott finished the game with 12 points off the bench.
After the two sides traded free throws, a basket by Wittenberg's Kristie Kalis ended the quarter where it began, with the teams once again knotted (50-50).
The Tigers would run the lead out to four with five minutes to play (56-52) on free throws by Sydney Mayle. However, Hiram would continue to battle, tying the game for the fifth time on free throws by freshman Alainna Conroy with 4:11 to play.
Branch's final triple of the evening staked the Terriers to a one-point lead (62-61), but Wittenberg would not go away, eventually leading to the final plays of the night the led to the Tiger victory.
Overall, the two sides posted their points in very different ways. The Terriers knocked down 12 three pointers on the evening while shooting .429 from behind the arc. Wittenberg, meanwhile, held a 32-10 edge in the paint.
Joining Branch, Johnson and Scott in double figures, Vannoy tallied 11 points on the night, while adding eight assists. The senior has now posted 114 helpers on the season, notching a new career best. It also gives her 387 career dimes, just seven shy of the Hiram all-time record.
Hiram, who now sits at 6-7 in NCAC play (10-12 overall) will be back in action on Wednesday, February 7 as they travel to Delaware, Ohio to take on Ohio Wesleyan. The matchup with the Battling Bishops is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.