Marietta College women are Ohio Athletic Conference tournament champions

Photo provided Marietta College women’s basketball team celebrates after claiming the Ohio Athletic Conference title over Ohio Northern.

ADA — While flooding is causing all kinds of havoc in Washington County, the Marietta College women’s basketball team is on top of the world.

The underdog Pioneers accomplished another program first this winter by defeating nationally-ranked Ohio Northern University, 85-68, in an Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament championship game at the ONU Sports Center Saturday afternoon.

“We played a really good game, and there was no way our team was going to be denied,” said second-year Marietta head coach Kole Vivian.

With the victory, MC (24-4) clinched an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament –and that’s a first as well. The Pioneers are expected to host a first-round game at the BanJo against a TBA-announced opponent on a day and time to be announced.

The Michelle Durand-coached Polar Bears (23-5), the OAC regular-season champions, must now wait to see if they receive an at-large bid to the D3 event. During regular-season play, ONU beat MC twice — but a third time was not to be.

Marietta was led by the trio of Brooke Borich, Shay Lett, and Amisha Herd, who combined for 61 points.

The 5-foot-7 Borich, a former Fort Frye standout, finished with a high of 23 points, 18 after the break. The senior sharpshooter was seven-of-12 from the field, three-of-six from 3-point range, and 6-of-7 from the foul line.

“BB was really good right from the get-go,” Vivian said. “She played 26 minutes and scored 23 points. She was so efficient.”

The 5-7 Lett added 21 points, 17 in the opening half. The junior from Chillicothe was 6-of-11 from the floor, 6-of-9 from 3-land, and 3-of-4 from the line.

In MC’s 93-85 double overtime loss to ONU at the BanJo Feb. 17, Lett scored only two points. But she bounced back to tally a career-high 23 markers in the Pioneers’ win against John Carroll University in the OAC quarterfinals.

The 5-3 Herd had a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds in the title tilt. The ex-West Muskingum star also had six assists and four steals, both game-highs.

For the navy blue and white champs, Alexis Enochs and Marlo Taylor chipped in with seven and six points, respectively.

Ohio Northern was paced by senior All-American post Amy Bullimore’s game-high 24 points and nine boards. No other Polar Bear scored in double digits, but Courtney Cramer and Jenna Dirksen each had nine markers, while Tori Wyss netted seven.

ONU jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead. But sparked by Lett’s six first-quarter points, Marietta came back to stake itself to a 22-11 advantage.

At the start of the second quarter, Borich buried a three to give the Pioneers a 14-point lead. But the Polar Bears came back, and only trailed 40-34 at the intermission. Lett added 11 more points to her total in the second stanza.

Led by Bullimore, Ohio Northern scored seven unanswered points at the beginning of the third quarter, and led 41-40. Late in the period, the Polar Bears stretched their advantage to 55-49 on an Alexis Kirkbride triple.

But in the final seconds of the third quarter, Lett drained another three, and that was followed by Herd stealing the ball, scoring and getting fouled, and then making the bonus freebie as Marietta regained the lead, 56-55. The Pioneers actually closed out the third with a 7-0 run.

“Amisha was unreal,” Vivian said. “That was a big steal and layup. It kind of got us the lead.”

ONU got the lead back on Dirksen’s two freebies at the start of the fourth quarter. MC, however, answered that with a Borich trifecta to make it 59-57 Pioneers.

Going back and forth, ONU’s Emily Mescher’s tied it with a score. But then, after MC scored seven unanswered points by Herd (2), Enochs (2), and Borich (3) to make it 66-59, it never looked back.

Putting an exclamation mark on a 29-point quarter, Herd knocked down a three in the final seconds of the contest.

“I’m so proud of our team,” Vivian said. “They’ve worked so hard.”