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Pioneers start strong, hold on to win opener

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Wheeler Marietta College’s Bailee Brooks handles the ball during a college women’s basketball game against Otterbein Friday night at Ban Johnson Arena. Marietta won, 82-80.

Marietta College came out like a team excited to finally start its season.

The Pioneers built a huge early lead in Friday night’s season opener against Otterbein at Ban Johnson Arena, only to watch that lead evaporate in the second half. Marietta held on, though, as Abby Zerkle’s desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer was off the mark.

Devin Hefner finished with a team-high 17 points to go along with three steals and two assists. Erin Hahn added 11 points and eight rebounds, Bailee Brooks tallied 10 points and three steals while Luce Duritza and Hannah Schill contributed nine points apiece. Duritza and Kelly Levering both grabbed six boards, while Levering also netted seven points. Duritza blocked three shots while Camille Cummins blocked two and had six caroms.

“I am really proud of how we stuck together down the stretch when Otterbein was making a big run. We did a great job of rebounding in the fourth quarter, and we needed all of them,” said Marietta head coach Kole Vivian.

“Luce played really big minutes for us down the stretch, and Devin was great scoring and defending.”

Otterbein got a game-high 18 points from Katie McCrary, who also tallied five assists and three steals. Angelia Jackson added 14 points, Zerkle tallied 12 and Jenna Hoschouer netted 11.

Bryn Mangold filled the stats sheet with seven points, seven boards and five blocks.

Marietta scored the first eight points of the game and led by as many as 15, 20-5, on a pair of foul shots by Schill in the first quarter.

Layups by Hahn and Brooks stretched Marietta’s advantage to 19 in the second before Otterbein got hot. Jackson and Zerkle both made 3-pointers to cut it to 31-18 before a 6-0 run by the Cardinals made it 33-26. Otterbein got within two, 39-37, on Belpre graduate Kyna Waderker’s layup, but Olivia Gribble’s trey put Marietta up 42-37 at halftime.

A jumper by Hefner and a 3 by Schill put MC back up by double digits, 54-44, in the third, but the Cardinals didn’t go away. Five straight points by Natalie Galaida cut it to 59-57 before Jackson’s 3 gave Otterbein its first lead of the contest with 1:11 left in the third. McCrary then nailed the jumper to stretch the lead to three, and the Cardinals went into the final quarter up two, 63-61.

Back-to-back baskets by Duritza at the 9:24 mark in the fourth put Marietta back on top, but Zerkle answered with a 3 to put the visitors ahead 69-67. Levering tied it up with a layup before Congrove’s bucket put Marietta in front for good with 7:37 left in the game.

Brooks’ layup at the 2:40 mark built Marietta’s lead to seven, 81-74, but a basket by Zerkle and back-to-back jumpers by McCrary got Otterbein within one with 43 seconds to play.

Otterbein got the stop on the other end, but Hoschouer’s jumper on the ensuing possession was off the mark. Hefner got the rebound, drew the foul and made 1 of 2 at the line before Zerkle’s shot came up short.

The two teams will square off again Saturday, this time at Otterbein for a 6 p.m. tip.

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