Jessica Mrdjenovich made a 3-pointer as time expired, sending Allegheny to a 67-66 upset win over No. 23 Denison University in the semifinals of the 2016 North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament. The loss to the Gators snaps a 16-game winning streak for Denison which dated back to Dec. 15, 2015.
In a game that saw 15 lead changes and 12 tie-game situations, to say it was a back-and-forth contest doesn't do it justice. For 45 minutes it felt like the team that had the ball last would have a great chance to win.
With just under a minute to play, Denison junior guard Gaby Mehringer knocked down a clutch jumper from the wing off a nice pass from Jordan Holmes to give Denison a 65-64 lead. A miss at the other end by Mrdjenovich resulted in Holmes' 28th rebound. Allegheny's Kaitlyn Fromknecht fouled Holmes, sending her to the line with 13 seconds remaining.
Holmes missed the first and make the second, giving the Gators the ball with a chance to tie or win the game. Initially, they tried for two as Candaisy Crawford put her head down and drove the lane. The shot was off the mark but the rebound went out of bounds and was awarded to Allegheny. On the inbounds pass, the ball was be swung from the top of the key to the wing, just in front of the Gator bench. That's when Mrdjenovich chucked a high-arching 3-pointer that left her fingertips just before the final horn. The shot found nothing but net, sending the Allegheny bench onto the court in celebration.
The heartbreaking defeat overshadows an all-time great performance from Denison's Jordan Holmes. The junior broke the Denison record and the NCAC record for rebounds in a game with 28. She also scored 22 points and finished with seven blocked shots. As always, Holmes never left the court and was 6-of-11 from the field and 10-of-14 from the free throw line. Twenty of Holmes 28 rebounds came on the defensive end, limiting Allegheny's second chance opportunities.
Senior Taylor Lindquist followed with 15 points while going 4-of-9 and 3-of-5 from long range. Denison outrebounded Allegheny 52-31 but shot 37 percent from the field (21-of-57). Allegheny attempted 20 more shots than the Big Red but also made eight more field goals. The Gators were 29-of-77 (38 percent) while getting balanced scoring as four players reached double figures.
Emma Pellicano led the way with 18 points and four assists. Mrdjenovich scored 12 while Olivia Barkley and Fromknecht finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Denison falls to 23-4 on the season and now puts its NCAA Tournament hopes squarely on the shoulders of the selection committee. Allegheny will advance to the NCAC Championship game on Saturday at 4 p.m. where they will face No. 2 seed, DePauw, who also advanced via a buzzer-beater 3-pointer on Friday night. The NCAA Division III Selection Show will take place at 2:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 29.