GREENCASTLE, Ind. – Denison women's basketball advanced to their second-straight North Coast Athletic Conference championship game appearance on Friday night following a 60-52 comeback victory over third-seeded Wittenberg at Neal Fieldhouse. The second-seeded Big Red will face top-seeded DePauw University in the tournament championship on Saturday at 4 p.m. in Greencastle.
With a trip to Saturday's title game on the line, both sides traded momentum during the final two-quarters of action. Entering the second half behind 29-22, the Big Red opened with eight of the first 10 points of the third quarter, led by six points from senior Lauren Hofer, as Denison trimmed Wittenberg's lead to one, 31-30, with 6:32 to play in the frame.
Over the next six minutes of action, the Tigers rallied for a 13-6 scoring run to end the quarter thanks to nine combined points from Kristie Kalis and Delaney Williams. Wittenberg entered the final period with an eight-point lead, 44-36.
Despite DU's deficit, the Big Red wasted no time in pursuing their comeback. After a pair of free throws from senior Alison Schafer trimmed Witt's lead back to six, Zyah Beal answered at the rim on Denison's next possession to make it a four-point game, 44-40, with 7:37 to play.
Following a steal by Lauren Longbrake on the next play, Denison's continued to chip away after Schafer buried a jumper, Beal added a bucket, and senior Aliyah Hunter converted at the charity stripe to tie the game at 46-46 at the 5:07 mark.
Finishing the game on a 24-8 scoring run, the Big Red continued to hit the accelerator and never looked back. Back-to-back layups by Addie Buzas gave DU a 50-49 advantage while a three-point play from Beal built the lead to 53-49. After Denison took a 55-50 lead on a layup from Hofer, the Big Red connected on their final five free throw attempts to earn their 19th win of the season. The loss dropped Wittenberg to 19-8 overall.
Beal led the Big Red with 13 points on 7-of-9 from the charity stripe. She also added four rebounds. Hofer chipped in 11 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks while Schafer added 10 points, eight boards, and three assists. Senior Lauren Turner finished with eight points in 11 minutes off the bench and Buzas and Hunter each tallied six points.
Witt's Korynne Berner led all scorers with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Kalis followed with 15 points and seven rebounds while Williams finished with 11 points, nine boards, and six assists.
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.