By Caleb Scott
ADA — The No. 24-ranked Ohio Northern women's basketball team punched its ticket to the Ohio Athletic Conference tournament championship game for the second consecutive season on Thursday evening with a hard-fought 80-72 victory over No. 6-seeded Otterbein in the OAC Tournament semifinals at the ONU Sports Center.
The Polar Bears improve to 23-4 on the season, while the Cardinals end their season at 17-10.
Northern will host No. 2-seeded Marietta at the ONU Sports Center in the tournament championship contest at 3 pm on Saturday afternoon with a trip to the 2018 NCAA III Tournament on the line.
Northern was led by senior Amy Bullimore's (Morrow/Little Miami) team-high 23 points and nine rebounds.
Sophomore Emily Mescher (Maria Stein/Marion Local) added 11 second-half points, including nine crucial points down the stretch in the fourth quarter and pulled down seven boards for Northern.
After taking a 21-16 lead into the second quarter, senior Cheyenne Raker (Columbus/Westerville South) found Bullimore under the basket for a layup to push the lead to 36-26 with 4:15 remaining in the first half.
OU would cut the deficit to 38-34 with 15 seconds remaining in the half before Black capitalized on a Cardinal foul with two seconds left in the half and hit two free throws to give ONU a 40-34 lead at the break.
After stretching the lead to as many as 15 points in the third quarter following a pair of free throws from junior Tori Wyss (Ada), Otterbein was able to cut into the lead and close the gap to 56-52 heading into the final period of action.
The Polar Bears would hit 8-of-10 free throws in the final minute of the contest to seal the 80-72 victory.
Northern shot 24-of-52 (46.2 percent) from the field, including 5-of-14 (35.7 percent) from the 3-point line, while the Cardinals were 25-of-64 (39.1 percent) from the field, including 7-of-29 (24.1 percent) from 3-point range.
The Cardinals out-rebounded the hosts 38-36.