NORTON, Mass. - The Wheaton College women's basketball team erased an 11-point halftime deficit en route to a 62-60 victory over visiting Rivier College in Friday's home opener at Emerson Gymnasium, as the Lyons kicked off their 17th tip-off tournament by advancing to tomorrow's championship game against the winner of Fitchburg State University and Plymouth State University.
Wheaton improves to 1-1 with tonight's victory, while Rivier slips to 1-1. Saturday's consolation game is scheduled for a 2:00 p.m. start and will be followed by the championship contest at 4:00 p.m. The Lyons are seeking their eighth tip-off tournament crown.
Junior Gabbie DePalo (Rumson, N.J./Rumson-Fair Haven Regional) and sophomore Natasha Colon Ortiz (Holyoke, Mass./Holyoke) controlled play underneath for the hosts, as each recorded a career-best 16 points. Ortiz grabbed a game-best eight rebounds, while DePalo added seven. Sophomore Jeana Trimboli (Norwalk, Conn./Trinity Catholic) posted 12 points and five assists, and freshman Laura Pierce (Hampstead, N.H./Pinkerton Academy) had five helpers.
Raider junior Amanda Purcell (Hudson, N.H./Alvirne) led all scorers with 25 points, including 21 in the first half alone. She made 8-of-10 from the charity stripe. Freshman Britney Lane (Waterford, Vt./Saint Johnsbury Academy) added 10 points.
Trailing 41-30 at the intermission, Wheaton quickly cut into its deficit, as the hosts knocked down five of their first six shots that brought the score to 44-40 at the 17:15 mark. DePalo and Ortiz figured in all 10 points. A Trimboli triple at 13:28 brought the Lyons to 46-45 before sophomore Gabby Barbera's (Ridgewood, N.J./Ridgewood) trey midway through the frame knotted the score at 50.
With Rivier clinging to a 52-50 edge with less than eight minutes to go, DePalo scored four points over a 27-second span to give Wheaton its first lead since 11:37 of the opening half. Three ties and four lead changes ensued over the final 5:17, as an Ortiz freebie with 22 ticks left snapped a 60-all tie while providing the Lyons with the lead for good. Trimboli went 1-of-2 at the line with 4.3 ticks left, but on the ensuing rebound the Raiders were unable to get off a shot.
In the first half, the Lyons jumped out to a 10-3 advantage just over five minutes in, but Rivier answered with an 8-2 run over 1:36 to trail 12-11 at the 13:14 mark. The Raiders eventually turned a 16-15 deficit approaching the midway point of the stanza into a commanding 39-23 lead with 3:28 to go before the break. Purcell poured in 13 points with a trio of threes during the stretch. Wheaton closed out the half on a 7-2 run in narrowing the gap to 11.