With the No. 8 team in the country on their doorstep, Lycoming College weathered the storm in the first half, but faltered in the second, falling 58-45 to Messiah at Lamade Gym on Friday afternoon.
Right from the tip it was obvious Lycoming (2-6, 2-3 CC) was going to have to stop Messiah's 6-foot-2 senior forward Dori Gyori. Gyori made a habit of getting deep into the paint and with a soft touch around the rim scored Messiah's first nine points.
To make things even tougher on the Warriors defense, Gyori ran the floor well in transition while making her free throws when given the opportunity and often kicked the ball out of the post to her open shooters.
And it was her ability to find shooters from the post that proved to be lethal down the stretch for the Falcons (8-0, 5-0 CC).
"They connected on shots from 3. They were 1 for 12 from 3 in the first half and in the second half they buried some crucial shots," said Lycoming head coach Christen Ditzler. Our game plan was to shut down the inside and I thought we did a really admiral job of that in the first half."
While never dominant, Lycoming did just enough to stick around in the first half, getting big plays from both starters and key reserves.
A Rachel Scheller behind-the-back crossover ignited the Warriors' bench when her defender fell down, while a critical steal and score for Taylor Ford gave the Warriors the lead and an And-1 opportunity from Julia Antonelli late in the half kept the Warriors close.
Along with Scheller, Antonelli and Ford, Ali Derr played a critical role both on offense - she scored seven of her nine points in the first half - and on defense by guarding Gyori.
"I thought Ali played extremely well," Ditzler said. "When you have to come up against a big kid like that it's tough and she did really, really well."
Down just two points at halftime, it looked as though the Warriors were going to put Messiah on upset alert. It was in the second half, however, that Messiah found its stroke and pulled away after an 11-0 run before eventually stretching the lead to 16 points with just five minutes to play.
"Teams like Messiah, who are ranked eight, know who to win," Ditzler said. "Their players stepped up and hit some big 3's to open up that lead."
Before the 11-0 run late, Lycoming stayed close by protecting the ball and taking good shots. The presence of Gyori under the basket made things difficult, though, as she almost eliminated second-chance points, grabbing 18 rebounds with 12 on the defensive glass.
"I said we could win the game if we win the rebounding war and we didn't," Ditzler said. "We took care of the ball against a very good Messiah pressure but rebounding really hurt us."
While competing versus an extremely tough Messiah team, Antonelli became just the 26th player in school history to score 600 career points.
"I didn't even know," Antonelli said." I didn't even know I got it."
MESSIAH (8-0, 5-0 CC)
Dori Gyori 8-14 8-9 24; Taylor Miller 2-8 2-2 8; Nicky Hess 2-11 1-3 7; Kira Maier 2-5 1-3 5; Chelsea Danel 2-5 0-0 5; Jordan Seiz 2-3 0-0 4; Morgan DeRemer 0-0 4-4 4; Hannah Nichols 0-1 1-4 1; Dominique Seamon 0-1 0-0 0; Megan Shipe 0-0 0-0 0; Sienna Wisse 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-49 17-25 58.
LYCOMING (2-6, 2-3 CC)
Rachael Scheller 5-7 0-0 12; Ali Derr 4-6 1-2 9; Julia Antonelli 2-6 3-6 7; Kat Andriani 2-4 0-0 4; Janelle Ziminski 1-3 0-0 3; Shanley Harlacker 1-6 0-0 3; Taylor Ford 1-6 1-2 3; Olivia Manges 1-2 0-0 2; Chelsea Henderson 1-3 0-0 2; Victoria Siebecker 0-0 0-0 0; Shannon Wheeler 0-4 0-0 0; Victoria Kowalski 0-3 0-0 0; Jenna Morgan 0-0 0-0 0; Leeann Randall 0-0 0-0 0. Totals18-50 5-10 45.
Halftime: Messiah, 24-22. 3-point goals--Messiah 5-21 (Miller 2-8; Hess 2-8; Danel 1-4; Wisse 0-1), Lycoming 4-14 (Scheller 2-3; Ziminski 1-2; Harlacker 1-6; Ford 0-2; Wheeler 0-1). Fouled out-None. Rebounds--Messiah 41 (Gyor 18), Lycoming 30 (Antonelli 8). Assists--Messiah 15 (Danel 5), Lycoming 11 (Scheller 3). Total fouls--Messiah 13, Lycoming 20. Technical fouls--None. A-268