Marietta College women fall to No. 4 Thomas More

Marietta College gave fourth-ranked Thomas More all it wanted and then some Wednesday night in a mid-week, non-conference showdown at Ban Johnson Arena.

The Pioneers came off the mat in the final period to trim a 16-point deficit to just three before eventually succumbing to the Saints, 81-75.

“We’ve got a lot of heart. Our girls played really hard and that’s because of our seniors,” said third-year Marietta College head coach Kole Vivian. “Shay (Lett) has got a lot of pride, Jo (Herd-Middlebrooks) has a lot of pride, Corrie (Burkhardt) has a lot of pride, so it’s tough for any team to come in here and beat us by that kind of margin.”

The Pioneer ladies came out of the gate strong as they won the opening period by a 16-14 margin.

The Saints tied the score early in the second period before grabbing their first lead of the game on a three-pointer by Brianna McNutt.

Once in front it looked like Thomas More might be able to put some distance between themselves and the home team as they held an eight-point lead with less than two minutes to play in the opening half.

The Pioneers instead cut into the Saints lead as a key block on the defensive end by Burkhardt set up four consecutive points by sophomore Bailee Brooks.

Then, a strong drive and finish with the left hand by former Belpre Golden Eagle Cheyenne Barker trimmed the lead to 40-35 at the break.

Several times in the third period the undefeated Saints threatened to turn the game into a blow-out but each time the resilient Pioneers came charging back.

After Marietta College had trimmed another eight-point Saint lead down to just two, the Saints went on a 14-3 run to end the third period to leave the Pioneers staring at a 13-point deficit heading into the final 10 minutes of play.

The Pioneers quickly whittled that lead back to eight on five consecutive points by Burkhardt but once again Thomas More went on a 10-2 run to open a game-high 16- point lead (75-59) with just over five minutes to play.

To make matters worse for Marietta College, it had a pair of starters in Burkhardt and junior Alexis Enochs playing with four personal fouls each.

That didn’t stop Marietta from making one last charge at an upset.

Four free throws by Enochs sandwiched a Marlo Taylor field goal to cut the lead 10.

A steal by Brooks resulted in a Lett basket and a steal by Taylor was converted into two more freebies by Brooks and just like that Marietta College was down by just six with four minutes to play.

The Marietta defense held the Saints scoreless for nearly four minutes before a free throw by McNutt halted an 11-0 Pioneer spurt with 2:16 to go in the game.

MC converted on 24-of-30 free throws in the game including a pair by Burkhardt to make it a four-point game before McNutt’s field goal stretched the lead back to 78-72.

Lett brought the home crowd to its feet by drilling her fourth triple of the game to make it a one-possession game, and Burkhart and Brooks came up with an equally big defensive play as they stripped the Saints of the ball to give the Pioneers a chance to tie the game with only 47 seconds left.

Marietta’s hopes were dashed however as they never got a game-tying shot attempt off as Saint freshman Asyah Mitchell came up with a crushing steal to turn the ball over to Thomas More.

After the ball was knocked out of bounds the Saints came up with another crushing blow as senior Madison Temple managed to get behind the Pioneer defense and scored an easy lay-up off of a baseball-style pass to push the lead to five with seconds to play to spoil a brilliant Pioneer comeback effort.

“I knew we had a little run left in us in the fourth quarter, we just weren’t able to finish,” said Vivian, whose team has already played two top 10 teams in the country in their first seven games. “I’m really proud of them and we finished strong. I think if we would have had two or three more minutes we maybe could have got them.”

Burkhardt, the former Philo Electric standout, put her team on her shoulders as she led the Pios with 22 points,13 rebounds and six steals.

“Corrie is something…. she’s so smart, she’s been a four-year starter for us, she gets to the foul line and makes them,” said Vivian. “I just can’t say enough about her but she was amazing.”

Lett joined Burkhardt in double figures with 20 while Brooks and Enochs finished with nine and eight points respectively.

The Jeff Hans-coached Saints came into the game shooting a cool 52.3 percent from the field and only improved that number by knocking down 54.9 percent of their shots (28-51) including 10-of-20 from the three-point line.

Temple led the way for the 9-0 Saints with 19 points while Saner added 16.

McNutt chipped in with 13 while Kelly Clapper and Emily Schultz finished with 11 and 10 points respectively.

The (5-2) Pioneers will get a bit of a breather before resuming Ohio Athletic Conference play a week from Saturday at Wilmington.