Behind Fourth Quarter Comeback, Women’s Basketball Wins Triple Overtime Thriller over Denison

Melissa Heath prepares to shoot a free throw

Despite trailing by 15 points with two minutes left in the third quarter, the Case Western Reserve University women's basketball team defeated Denison University 79-72 in triple overtime on Saturday afternoon at Horsburgh Gymnasium. The Spartans improve to 3-6 on the season. The Big Red suffered just their second loss of the season, falling to 7-2.

For the second straight season, the CWRU and Denison women's basketball teams needed overtime to decide the contest. It was the first time Case Western Reserve needed multiple overtimes to decide a contest since a four-overtime victory against John Carroll on November 28, 2012.

Three Spartans—graduate forward Melissa Heath, senior guard Kendall McConico, and first-year guard/forward Isabella Mills—recorded double-doubles, becoming just the second trio of CWRU teammates to record double-doubles in the same game (former Spartans Kara Hageman, Jess McCoy and Hillary Hellmann previously accomplished the feat against Emory on January 24, 2016). Heath recorded her first career double-double (including her time at Division I Brown) with 23 points, leading all scorers, and 11 rebounds, both career highs.  She shot an efficient 10-for-13 from the floor, including a perfect two-for-two from behind the three-point line, and matched her career-high with four blocked shots.

McConico also recorded her first career double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, doing most of her damage in the three overtimes, where she scored nine points and collected six rebounds. Mills, with her third career double-double and the second in her last three games, scored 20 points and tied her career high with 16 rebounds. Mills added six steals to match her career high for the third time this season, while her five blocks in the game were also a career best.

Sophomore guard/forward Abbey Lawrence, who was the fourth Spartan player to finish Saturday's game in double figures with 14 points, started the overtime period with a traditional three-point play to give CWRU the lead. Denison's Shonta Lockett cut the deficit to one with a layup. With 23 seconds remaining in the overtime period, the Spartans collected a rebound on a potential game-tying free throw from Denison. McConico made a foul shot with 19.2 seconds left to give the Spartans a 56-54 lead. With 2.3 seconds left, Denison's Lauren Longbrake made a layup to tie the game at 56 but missed a potential go-ahead free throw. Denison collected the rebound but missed a layup, and the game went to a second overtime.

McConico made two free throws to give the Spartans an early lead in the second overtime. Denison's Addie Buzas responded with two three-pointers for Denison to put the Big Red on top 62-58. McConico cut the deficit to two with a layup with 1:24 left in the period. On the Spartans' next possession, Heath tied the game at 62 with a layup and 40.9 seconds left in the second overtime. She then blocked a shot at the other end to keep the game tied. CWRU, however, turned the ball over on the following possession. On Denison's final possession, the Big Red missed a go-ahead three-pointer and the game went to a third overtime period tied at 62. 

The Spartans pulled away in the third overtime period, scoring the first nine points. Heath converted a layup on a breakaway to put the Spartans ahead 71-62 with 1:14 left in the game. A Denison three-pointer with 1:04 remaining cut the deficit to six. Mills scored a traditional three-point play to give the Spartans a nine-point advantage again with exactly one minute to play. Case Western Reserve made its free throws at the end of the period to clinch the win, 79-72. 

Overtime would not have been possible for CWRU without a late run.  After trailing by as many as 15 in the third quarter, the Spartans outscored the Big Red 18-5 in the fourth quarter to force overtime.

CWRU started the quarter on a 16-2 run. Lawrence tied the game with a three-pointer, and Mills gave the team a 50-49 lead with a free throw with 3:33 to go in regulation. Denison then tied the game at 50 with a free throw.

Junior forward Emma Cain stole the ball at the top of the arc and broke away for a layup to give the Spartans a 52-50 lead with 1:12 left in regulation. Lockett tied the game at 52 with a layup with 34 seconds remaining. The Spartans missed a potential go-ahead shot with four seconds left in regulation. Denison then turned the ball over on the ensuing possession, and CWRU could not get a shot off at the end of regulation, sending the contest into overtime tied at 52-52.

The Spartans overcame an early surge from Denison on Saturday as well.  The Big Red began the game with a 12-3 run. The Spartans cut the deficit to three with an 8-2 run of their own, putting the score at 14-11 with two minutes to play in the first quarter. A layup from Mills cut the deficit to one, 16-15, at the end of the first quarter.

Mills gave the Spartans their first lead of the afternoon with a jumper to start the second quarter, but Denison responded with a basket of its own. The teams switched leads throughout the quarter, but Denison used a 5-0 run to take a 23-19 lead with four minutes left in the half. Cain finished a 6-0 Spartan run with a layup to give the team a 25-23 lead. The Big Red tied the game at 25 to end the first half.

The third quarter began similarly to the second with the teams switching leads. However, Denison used a 19-3 run to pull ahead 47-32 with three minutes left in the quarter, the team's largest lead of the afternoon. The score stood at 47-34 at the end of the quarter, before the Spartans' late comeback allowed the team to send the contest to overtime and eventually claim the win.

Case Western Reserve outshot Denison 32.3% to 27.5% on Saturday, including a 41.2% to 22.9% edge in the three overtime sessions.  CWRU held a 34-28 edge in points in the paint and a 12-2 advantage in fastbreak points, while collecting a season-high 11 blocks.

The Spartans will take 13 days off from competition for finals, before returning to the court to host the College of Wooster on Friday, December 20 in the final game of 2019. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. from Horsburgh Gymnasium.