GREENCASTLE, Ind.-- Denison women's basketball advanced to the championship of the North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament on Friday night after a 68-59 victory over Ohio Wesleyan. The second-seeded Big Red will face top-seeded DePauw University in the tournament championship on Saturday at 4 p.m. in Greencastle.
Denison led wire-to-wire and built an 18-10 lead after the first quarter thanks to eight points off the bench by Alison Schafer. A regular starter all season, Shafer recently returned from a late-season injury and has provided a necessary spark off the Denison bench. She was 3-for-3 in the first quarter.
DU took a 35-23 lead into the locker room and expanded the lead to 16 midway through the third quarter. In the third, Valesha Province scored five of her 14 points to send Denison into the fourth quarter with a 49-43 lead.
Province opened the fourth with a 3-pointer off a feed from Aliyah Hunter to put Denison on top by nine. The Battling Bishops responded with a 7-1 run to make it a three-point game with six minutes to play.
After an OWU miss, senior Lucy Bancone nailed a 3-pointer to put Denison on top by eight with five minutes remaining. A triple by Province with 3:23 to play put the game away for the Big Red.
Winners of 14 of its last 16, Denison advances to Saturday's championship. DePauw defeated Wittenberg earlier in the night to set up the conference tournament final.
Schafer led all scorers with 20 points on 6-of-13 shooting. She was 4-of-9 from 3-point range in 28 minutes. Province scored 14 points while going 5-of-11 from the field. Zyah Beal added eight points and Lauren Longbrake led Denison with eight rebounds.
Tia Karras led OWU (11-16) with 17 points in 28 minutes. Cierra Joiner tallied 14 points.
Denison (18-8) shot 46 percent from the field and were 8-of-21 from long range. Ohio Wesleyan shot 36 percent from the field, going 19-of-52. The Big Red held a 36-21 advantage on the glass.
DePauw University will provide a live video stream of the championship game at 4 p.m. The Big Red is seeking its eighth NCAC Tournament Championship and a berth to the NCAA Division III Tournament.