By Chris Schmidbauer, Sports Information Director
Toledo, OH -- In a season where the impossible became possible, the Owens Women's Basketball program accomplished another amazing feat, winning the District B Championship over #3 Rock Valley 104-83 on Saturday afternoon.
The victory means that the Express are now one of eight teams left playing in the NJCAA at the Division III level and they will participate in the National Tournament at Northhampton Community College in Bethlehem. PA.
The two teams traded baskets at the outset of the game. Tied at 4-4, a Shyah Wheeler layup would jump start a 12-1 Owens run to put the Express up 16-5. After a Rock Valley timeout, the Golden Eagles would find their offensive groove, answering back with a 9-0 run to cut the Owens lead to just two points at 16-14 with 1:39 to play in the opening quarter. Wheeler would stem the tide with a personal 5-0 run to put the Express back up by five, and then a pair of Lliiana Velazquez threes helped Owens stave off the Golden Eagles to lead 27-21 at the end of the first period.
After a Rock Valley layup from Kalea Kruser to being the quarter, Tori Kopp would bury a three to advance to the Owens lead to 30-23. Rock Valley would storm back again, taking off on a 9-0 run to give the Golden Eagles a 32-30 lead, their first and subsequently only lead of the day, after a pair of free throws from Kruser. Kopp would answer right back for the Express, hitting another three just 31 seconds later, and the Express reeled off a 14-2 run to push the lead back up 10 at 44-34 with 3:52 left in the first half. Owens would push their lead to 15, after a jumper from Taylor Works with six seconds left made the score 55-40. A half court prayer from Rock Valley's Madi Hecox was not answered, and the Express headed to the locker room with the double digit advantage.
The Golden Eagles would slowly begin to chip away at the Express lead in the third, trading baskets at first before a 7-2 run trimmed the Owens lead to single digits again at 59-51 with 6:17 to play in the third. The lead would hover around the double digit mark, with both teams trading shots in the latter stages of the quarter. After a Works layup for Owens put the Express up 73-61 with 1:19 to play in the period, Rock Valley would got a four point swing to cut the Owens lead to single digits again at 73-65 heading to the final period of play.
In the fourth though, the Express were not to be denied. With the score at 80-71 with 7:23 to go, Owens would rattle off a 13-2 run over the next four and a half minutes ro push their lead to 20 points with 3:39 to play in the ball game. Moreina Moore and Shyah Wheeler were the main drivers in helping close out the Golden Eagles in the period. Wheeler would 13 points in the quarter while Moore added 11. They represented 24 of the Express's 31 points in the fourth, while the Golden Eagles scored just 13 points. The final quarter scoring gap meant the Express would finish with the 21 point victory.
Three players finished with more than 20 points, while all six Express players finished in double figures scoring wise. Tori Kopp had her best offensive performance of the year against Rock Valley. Kopp, who averaged five points per game coming into the contest, had a career high 21 points, and she was a perfect 8-8 from the floor and 5-5 from beyond the arc. She also grabbed six rebounds on the afternoon. The outing was good enough to name her District B's Most Valuable Player.
Moreina Moore was the Express's leading scorer, finishing with 26 points on 9-18 shooting. She also grabbed eight rebounds. Fresh off her Region XII MVP performance, Shyah Wheeler turned in a double-double, scoring 24 points on 10-20 shooting and grabbing 12 caroms in the process. She also had six assists in the as well. Whitney Thames had another double-double to add to her tally for the season. The Perrysburg native scored 10 points and had 15 rebounds, six of which came on the offensive end. It was her eighth double-double of the season.
Playing in her final home game, sophomore Taylor Works finished with 12 points and a game high nine assists. She also had five rebounds. Liliana Velazquez had 11 points off the bench, hitting several clutch threes on 4-6 shooting from the floor. Velazquez almost outscored the Golden Eagle's entire bench, finishing four points shy of their bench scoring.
Owens shot 52.1% (38-73) from the floor for the game, 505 (11-22) from three, and 85% (17-20) from the free throw line. Rock Valley shot 42.7% (32-75) for the game.
The victory means Owens's record improves to 23-8 overall on the season, and they will be playing the NJCAA Division III National Championship Tournament in two weeks at Northhampton College in Bethlehem, PA. The tournament will tip off Thursday March 14 and running through Saturday March 16. Seeding and matchups are yet to be determined.