ADA, Ohio— A strong fourth quarter propelled the No. 15 Trine women's basketball team past Illinois Wesleyan, 63-56, in its first game of the DIII NCAA Tournament on Friday night at Ohio Northern University.
The victory improves the Thunders' win streak to 11 games and improves its record to 25-2. Trine's 25 wins ties the school record for victories in a season. Illinois Wesleyan falls to 18-10 for the season.
Junior Brandi Dawson (Garret, Ind./Garrett) led the Thunder offense with 21 points and added three blocks and three steals. Hayley Martin (Auburn, Ind./DeKalb) grabbed 18 points and six rebounds with two blocks. Cassidy Williams (Archbold, Ohio/Archbold) notched seven points with seven assists and two steals. Senior Taylor Cole contributed five points and five assists.
The Titans were paced by Rebekah Ehresman with 15 points and four rebounds. Maddie Merritt added 12 points, while Amanda Kelly had 10 points.
The Thunder defense held the Titans to a 33.3 percent field goal percentage and only allowed three, three pointers on 21 attempts. Trine shot 52.3 percent from the field. The Thunder out rebounded the Titans 37-21, but Illinois Wesleyan's full court press caused 21 turnovers for Trine to its 12. The Thunder led in points in the paint with 36 to 24.
Dawson put the Thunder on the board early in the game on a basket assisted by Williams. Illinois Wesleyan tied the game at the free throw line with Ehresman sinking both of her attempts. Hayley Martin sunk the next four points for the Thunder before the Titans fought back to tie the game. The two teams traded the lead back and forth two more times before Martin scored four points to give Trine a 14-13 advantage after the first quarter. Martin led the Thunder with 10 points.
The Illinois Wesleyan offense came alive in the second quarter going on a seven-point run to put the Titans ahead 20-14. The Titans and the Thunder traded points back and forth throughout the quarter. They traded the lead three times and Illinois Wesleyan held a 29-27 edge going into halftime. Dawson and Martin each added four points. The Titans were led by Kelly with five points.
Merritt increased the Titans advantage to four points to open the third quarter. Martin brought the Thunder within a point draining a three point shot. Dawson handed Trine back the lead making a jump shot. Merritt made both of her free throws to put Illinois Wesleyan up by one point. Katy Steers followed by making a layup and turning it into a three-point play scoring on her free throw attempt after she was fouled on the shot. The score was tied up five more times before the Titans pulled ahead by four with 44 seconds left in the quarter. Dawson made a free throw and with six seconds left on the clock blocked a three point shot by Shelby Grey and ran down court to make a layup to put the Thunder within a point heading into the last quarter. Merritt led the Titans with 10 points. Dawson paced the Thunder with seven points and Tashayla Sutorius added four. Dawson also had three blocks.
Dawson quickly gave the Thunder back the lead to open the fourth quarter with a layup off an assist by Williams. The Titans tied the game back up at 49-49 midway through the quarter. Dawson and Martin made back-to-back layups to give Trine a four point advantage and the Thunder continued to hold the edge for the remainder of the game.