“The risk of love is loss and the price of loss is grief,” said author Hilary Zunin in her 1992 book Art of Condolence.
This sentiment unfortunately describes the mood of the women’s basketball team as they left the John Long Center in Scranton, Pa. after a tough 66-63 loss in the NCAA Women’s Division III Tournament.
Despite a heroic late comeback rallying after being down 15 points, the Yellowjackets’ season came to a halt on an empty three at the buzzer by junior guard Danielle Muller. The Yellowjackets finished their season 20-8 overall, going 2-1 in post-season play.
The Royals, ranked No. 2 in the nation, came into the game with 27-1 record along with a 48 home game winning streak. Behind the crowd of 1,800 in Scranton, the Royals dominated the game early, taking a 34-25 lead into the half. Senior forward Jesse Graham led the Yellowjackets with 20 in the game, which include a 6-11 night from behind the arc after coming off the previous week’s game with a NCAA tournament record nine three-pointers.
“Jessie’s made 30 threes in our last five games,” said head coach Jim Scheible. “I can’t believe there’s a better run out there.”
But the Yellowjackets would need more than another great night from Graham in order to pull off the upset.
Despite having a plus 10 margin in second chance points and points off turnovers, the Yellowjackets couldn’t contain the one-two punch of Scranton guards Allison Matt and Taryn Mellody, who led the Royals with 23 and 22 points, respectively.
The Royals held a 15 point lead 55-40 with about ten minutes left in the second half before the Yellowjackets went on a 9-2 run with threes from freshman guard Helen Baroody and Graham which cut the Royals lead to only eight. With about 2:30 left in the half, poor free throw shooting from Mellody gave the Yellowjackets glimmers of hope as they hit shot after shot to pull the lead within two with nine seconds left in the game.
“Everybody was trying so hard and we had the crowd behind us. It really got intense and exciting. Happily, we won,” Mellody said after nearly squandering Scranton’s lead by missing her last two from the charity stripe.
Matt went 1-2 from the line in the closing seconds to push the lead to 66-63. The Yellowjackets had one last chance to force it to overtime but Muller’s shot was just short as it banged off the front of the rim.
Scranton head coach Mike Strong praised the Yellowjackets for their late-game run that made the game exciting.
“We didn’t mentally lapse tonight. UR knew what they wanted to do down the stretch. [I] give UR credit,” Strong said. The Royals ended up placing third in the tournament. Although the Yellowjackets ended their season with a loss, there is sweet music ahead since half the team is comprised of either freshmen or sophomores with seven juniors and Graham being the only senior.
Wang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.