By Scott Beaton
UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS — The seventh-seeded Ohio Northern women's basketball team nearly completed an improbable run to the NCAA Division III Tournament Saturday, but fell to top-seeded John Carroll 61-58 in the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament Finals inside the Tony DeCarlo Varsity Center.
Northern ends the season at 15-13 overall after appearing in its third consecutive OAC Tournament Finals, having knocked off second-seeded Baldwin Wallace and third-seeded Marietta to reach the championship game. The Polar Bears became the lowest seed to reach the finals since JCU in 2011, also as a seven seed.
John Carroll is now 22-6 on the year and has earned the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Blue Streaks' Shmoo Pryor dropped a game-high 17 points and nailed a three-pointer with 1.8 seconds remaining to lift JCU to its first OAC Tournament championship.
For ONU, senior Jenna Dirksen contributed 13 points and eight rebounds, including a key basket to tie the game at 58 with 27.1 seconds to go.
She closes her career with 1,095 points, the 12th-best mark in school history.
The Polar Bears also received 16 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists from junior Emily Mescher (Maria Stein/Marion Local) and 12 points and three steals by junior Abby Weeks (West Chester/Mount Notre Dame).
Dirksen and Mescher were both named to the OAC All-Tournament Team. With the selection, Mescher is now a two-time All-Tournament Team member after garnering the same recognition in 2018.
Northern trailed 5-1 after the first 5:15, but launched an 11-0 run and to claim a 12-5 lead at the end of the first quarter.
With 8:06 left in the second quarter, ONU had its largest lead of the afternoon, 16-8, but the Blue Streaks responded to take a 22-20 edge with 1:45 left in the half.
ONU closed the half on a 7-2 run to lead 27-24 heading into intermission.
At the 3:04 mark of the third quarter, JCU held its largest lead of the contest at 38-34. Sophomore Emily Brock (Akron/Revere) drilled a three-pointer on an assist by senior Alyssa Manley (Lima/Bath), Mescher made a lay-up, and senior Tori Wyss (Ada) scored to give ONU a 41-38 lead after 30 minutes of action.
A Mescher jumper with 6:27 to go pushed the Polar Bear advantage to 50-43, but JCU came back to lead 53-52 with 2:43 remaining.
Dirksen and Wyss each hit jumpers to regain the lead in next minute before the Blue Streaks led 58-56 with 43 seconds left. Dirksen made a fadeaway jumper in the paint with 27.1 seconds to go, tying the game at 58.
JCU's Pryor knocked in a three-pointer with 1.8 seconds remaining and a last-second desperation three from ONU did not fall.
Northern was 24-for-56 (42.9%) from the field and 4-for-19 (21.1%) from three-point range. John Carroll was 21-for-58 (36.8%) from the floor and 10-for-24 (41.7%) on three-point attempts.