By Blake Moore
ADA — The Ohio Northern women's basketball team sent the program's Class of 2019 student-athletes out in style Wednesday evening, toppling Ohio Athletic Conference foe Heidelberg 53-45 inside the ONU Sports Center on Senior Night.
The Polar Bears improve to 12-12 overall and 6-11 against the conference circuit with the victory. More importantly, Northern moves into a two-way tie for seventh place with Wilmington in the OAC standings and can secure their spot in the conference tournament Saturday with a win at Muskingum.
With the win, head coach Michele Durand earns her 310th coaching victory at Ohio Northern. She now stands tied for the most career victories for an Ohio Northern men's or women's basketball coach all-time, tying former men's basketball coach Gale Daugherty for the top spot.
Heidelberg drops to 9-15 overall and falls to ninth in the league standings with a 5-12 mark.
Prior to the game, Ohio Northern honored seniors Alyssa Manley (Lima/Bath), Jenna Dirksen (Beavercreek/Carroll), and Tori Wyss (Ada) for their hard work and dedication to the women's basketball program.
On the court, the three seniors would shine in their final home contest.
Dirksen topped the scoring efforts with 12 points on four-for-nine shooting, including a two-for-five clip from beyond the arc. The senior added three rebounds and two assists in the winning effort.
Meanwhile, Manley would go four-for-eight from the floor to contribute a season-high 11 points. She finished three-for-four from three-point territory while suppling two assists and two rebounds.
Wyss led the Polar Bears with a team-high 12 rebounds and three steals. The Ada product also chipped in three points and two assists on the night.
Sophomore Sydney Ward (Columbus/Upper Arlington) rounded out the double-figure scorers Wednesday evening, adding 10 on four-for-six shooting.
The Student Princes were led by Brooke Beamer and Madelyn Crawford, who produced 18 and 15 points, respectively.
Ohio Northern got off to a quick start in the first period, scoring the first 11 points in the contest. Manley knocked down two consecutive three-pointers to open the night before junior Abby Weeks (West Chester/Mount Notre Dame) rattled in a jumper and Dirksen dialed up her first three-pointer. With the early momentum, ONU was able to build a 17-5 cushion by the end of the first period.
HU registered a much-improved 50% shooting clip in the second frame, but the Polar Bears would force five turnovers to maintain their advantage. Both sides managed 14 points in the quarter, giving Northern a 31-19 lead heading into the locker rooms.
After conceding the first four points in the third period, ONU's offense sparked to life for a short 6-0 run midway through the stanza. The scoring burst was capped with a Martrina Parks (Columbus/Thomas Worthington) jumper at the 4:19 mark, giving Northern its largest lead in the contest.
Trailing 40-30 with one period remaining, the Student Princes tried to rally with their own 6-0 run in the fourth to cut the lead to just four points. Dirksen ended the offensive dry spell with a layup at the 2:22 mark, allowing the Polar Bears to seal the critical conference victory.
Ohio Northern shot 19-for-53 (35.8%) Wednesday night, including 7-for-17 (41.2%) from long range. Meanwhile, Heidelberg was held to a 28.6% shooting clip on 16-for-56 shooting and an 18.8% mark from beyond the arc.
The Polar Bears will wrap up the 2018-19 regular season Saturday afternoon with a road trip to OAC foe Muskingum. With a win, Northern will guarantee their spot in the OAC Tournament next week. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. inside the Anne C. Steele Center in New Concord.