RICHMOND, Ind. - Earlham College women's basketball rallied back from a deficit to force Defiance College into overtime, but the Quakers suffered a 73-71 loss at the hands of the Yellow Jackets on Wednesday evening at the Druley Performance Gym.
Earlham (5-11, 3-6 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference) was the first to get on the board off of a free throw by junior guard Camryn White and a layup by junior forward Zoe Curtis, putting them up 3-0. After Defiance (4-12, 3-6 HCAC) made its first shot Earlham fell behind them quickly. Defiance surged to a 16-0 run before sophomore guard Acacia Tenette restarted Earlham's offense by driving down the lane for an easy wide-open layup. Junior guard Kendall Spears followed by draining a three, and that was the beginning of Earlham's five-point run to cut the margin to 16-10 with 1:37 left in the opening period. Eventually, at the end of the first quarter, a Defiance pull-up jump shot and three-point jump shot would put the Yellow Jackets up 21-10.
By the second quarter, Earlham was having trouble defending a Yellow Jacket squad that threatened from all over the floor. Defiance was shooting well above its season average from the three-point distance, sinking jump shots and finishing in the paint, while Earlham's full court press was not deterring the Jackets' offense. Despite its shooting struggles from the field and at the free-throw line, Earlham trailed by only 10, 35-25, at halftime.
Earlham's strategy in the second half was to take it one play at a time, and chip away at Defiance's lead. Sophomore guard Kayla Bowling set the tone by banging out a three early in the third quarter, setting up Earlham's offense for the comeback. Curtis added a jumper to top off Earlham's scoring run that brought the Quakers within four points of the Yellow Jackets. After back-to-back shots from the three-point range, Defiance once again pulled ahead by eight points, 49-41, entering the fourth quarter.
Earlham's confidence offensively skyrocketed in the final quarter of the game. The Quakers were feeding Curtis in the low post, and she was proving to be almost automatic. In the fourth quarter alone, Curtis went 5-of-8 from field goal range to score 11 of her 26 total points. Curtis was not Earlham's only athlete to make an impact. Spears struck again with clutch threes to put Earlham within two points of Defiance, and kick-off a six-point run that would tie the game at 63-63 and send it into overtime.
The early missed free throws came back to haunt the Quakers, and the Yellow Jackets' defensive strategy was effective through most of the game. Defiance took Earlham out of its comfort zone by forcing more shots from the perimeter and contesting every shot in the paint. Defiance was able to contain Earlham's offensive powerhouses, giving the Quakers fewer scoring options.
Curtis was almost automatic in this matchup going 12-of-17 from field goal range and a perfect 2-2 from the free-throw line. Curtis also collected eight rebounds and accounted for three steals. Tenette was Earlham's top defender, earning a career-high 11 rebounds; six offensively and five defensively.
Earlham will hit the road to continue HCAC play on Saturday, Jan. 19, to face Manchester University at 2:00 p.m., weather permitting.