NORTH MANCHESTER, IND. – A strong effort down the stretch at the free throw line helped key Manchester University to a 61-59 win over Mt. St. Joseph Dec. 15.
Coach Josh Dzurick's team had to fend off a strong rally in the second frame to claim the win. MU (3-5 overall, 3-1 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference) led by as much as 11 early in the half, but MSJ (2-6, 2-2) whittled away and overtook the Spartans when sophomore guard Brooke Mosler hit a lay-up with 42 seconds left (59-58).
From that point, junior forward Erynn Meiklejohn (Fort Wayne, Ind.), as part of a 23-point, 12-rebound double-double, grabbed a big offensive rebound off a missed shot, was fouled and hit two free throws to put Manchester up 60-59. MU's defense forced a MSJ turnover which was followed by sophomore guard Caitlyn Ailor (Ossian, Ind.) hitting one-of-two free throws. After the second attempt was missed, the battle for the rebound went out-of-bounds to the home team which Manchester followed by running out the clock. With Ailor and Meiklejohn's final-minute heroics included, the Spartans went nine-of-10 at the charity stripe over the final five minutes.
"This was a good home conference win," Dzurick said. "It was a team victory. I was impressed by the way we came back and made some big plays after (Mt. St. Joseph) took the lead on us in the final minute.
"Erynn had a solid effort," he added. "She kept on working hard inside even with some of her shots not falling."
The Spartans, earning their third overall and Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference win, used a late first half roll to open a 32-23 halftime advantage. MSJ held the lead twice and had their hosts tied twice before the Black and Gold scored 12 of the final 15 points to close the opening stanza.
Freshman guard Hannah Field (Fort Wayne, Ind.) joined Meiklejohn in the double-figure scoring column with 10 points. Sophomore guards Jocelyn Hamilton (Columbus, Ind.) and Jaimie Childress (Brownsburg, Ind.) each chipped in eight points, as Hamilton dished out a team-high four assists, and Childress picked up four steals. Sophomore forward Abby Lang (Indianapolis, Ind.) contributed two blocked shots.
MSJ was led by freshman guard Heidi McManus' 13 points. Senior guard/forward Alex Donald added 11 points.
NOTES: The Spartans close their pre-Christmas schedule with a 7 p.m. tip-off against the Thunder of Trine University inside Hershey Hall on Trine's campus Tuesday, Dec. 18. … The win moved the Spartans into third place all alone behind co-conference unbeatens Defiance and Transylvania. Manchester resumes league play with a trip to Anderson Wednesday, Jan. 2. … Meiklejohn's double-double was the third of her career, while her 23 points matched a total she had against Mount Union in November. … MU improved to 46-12 in league play at Stauffer-Wolfe under Dzurick's direction.