NORTON, Mass. - The Wheaton College women's basketball team opened the 2016-17 season with a 76-63 victory over the New Jersey City University Gothic Knights in the first game of the Cheryl Warren-Powers '95 Memorial Tip-Off Tournament on Friday evening in Emerson Gymnasium.
The win marks the eighth straight opening game victory in the Wheaton College Tip-Off Tournament for the Lyons. Wheaton is now 30-13 all-time in the tournament, while NJCU falls to 1-2.
Wheaton was paced by a career-high 20 points from junior Rebecca Olivieri, who ended the night 5-10 from the floor and 9-10 from the free-throw line. Junior Ruthie Zientek recorded her first career double-double in the win, netting 12 points and collecting 11 rebounds. Senior Sophia Black also ended the night in double-figures, knocking down 11 points on a 3-7 performance from the floor and 5-6 from the charity stripe. Black also collected a game-high four steals and five assists. Abby Hamilton also dished out five assists, while Olivieri and Zientek each had four.
Tu'ziah Hall led the Gothic Knights with 19 points, while Aaliyah Saud finished with 17. Jazz Randall ended the evening with 12 points after hitting 4-9 from the floor and finishing a perfect 4-4 from the free-throw line. Shege Haxhaj ended the night with a game-high 12 boards for NJCU, 10 of which came on the defensive side of the ball. Saud collected a team-high four steals, while Melissa Etienne finished with the teams only block.
In a statistically even game, free-throws proved to be a large different maker with Wheaton finishing the contest shooting .818 from the line, while the Gothic Knights shot .700. The two sides traded possession of the lead eight times, while knotting up the score twice.
Olivieri handed the Lyons the lead prior to the tip after draining one of two free-throws due to a pregame technical foul by the Gothic Knights. The junior went on to hit three more to hand Wheaton an early 4-0 lead. NJCU battled its way back into the game, taking the lead at 18-17 after an untraditional three-point play from Hall with 6:57 left in the opening half. A jumper from Kiana Briggs just seconds later handed the Gothic Knights their largest lead of the contest, 20-17. The teams flip-flopped possession of the lead throughout the remainder of the half with Wheaotn taking a slim, 31-30, lead into the locker room after a made layup from Oppie Morris with 18 seconds remaining.
The second half once again began with Olivieri free-throws, but back-to-back layups by Saud and Haxhaj handed the lead back to NJCU. Wheaton found its rhythm down in the final four minutes of the third quarter taking the lead back from good on a Jill Bodreau layup. The Lyons captured their largest lead of the game with 5:29 left in the game with a Black layup that made it a 69-46 game. The Gothic Knights were able to cut the deficit nearly in half, but it would not be enough with Wheaton earning the 76-63 victory.
Wheaton returns to the court on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 3 p.m. for the championship game of the CWP '95 Memorial Tip-Off Tournament, against Framingham State. Newbury and NJCU will play in the third-place game at 1 p.m.
The 5th Annual Cheryl Warren-Powers '95 Tournament that helps support Cheryl's twins Jordan and Craig. Warren-Powers, who passed away on May 22, 2012, was a standout athlete at Wheaton.
If you are unable to attend but would like to donate, check out the "Little Angels Of Warren-Powers" GoFundMe page at: https://www.gofundme.com/2tv67744