It was a tale of two halves inside Haynes-Prim Pavilion on Monday evening as the Menlo College women's basketball team hooked up with Midland University (Neb.) for their first of two games in the 2014 Peninsula Classic.
Menlo jumped on the Warriors early, leading by as many as 17 points in the first half, but Midland rallied back in the second half to pull within two with just 37 seconds remaining.
Despite being outscored by 11 in the second frame, the Oaks stood tall and claimed a hard-fought 78-73 victory to improve to 10-3 on the season.
Midland (5-9) led by a pair with 16:32 remaining before the Oaks' offense kicked it into high gear and never allowed the Warriors to lead again. Leading 9-6, Menlo mounted a 17-5 run capped off by a couple of Tori Conley free throws and an Aaliyah Sowards jumper to make it 26-11 with just over eight minutes remaining. Menlo extended its lead to 17 points when Jenna Arnett connected for a pair seconds later. A major aide to Menlo's strong first half effort was the play of junior guard Vanessa D'Amico, who chipped in a half-high 10 points. She finished with 16 total points, connecting on four 3-pointers.
It looked like Menlo was going to cruise to a double-digit victory as they continued to connect and led by 10-or-more for the first eight minutes of the stanza. The Warriors, who averaged over 75 points per game entering the contest, proved they were able to score points in bunches when they mounted a 10-4 run to cut the Oaks lead to 64-60 with 5:59 remaining.
The teams exchanged buckets and Menlo extended the lead back to nine points on a Sowards 3-pointer with 3:25 left. The Warriors again rallied and cut the lead to just two points, 75-73 with 37 seconds remaining but the Oaks got a crucial stop with nine second left and Jacki Bateman and Amber Lane converted on three of four free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Sowards paced the Oaks with a team-high 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting including a 3-of-6 effort from range. D'Amico was next with 16 followed by Laurel Donnenwirth and her 14 points and six rebounds. Lane tallied nine points and dished out five assists.
In the first game of the Peninsula Classic, the Warner Pacific Knights downed Cal Maritime, 58-52.
Menlo returns to Haynes-Prim Pavilion on Tuesday at 6 p.m. for a clash with Warner Pacific.
Menlo opened play in the Arizona Christian Firestorm Classic by dropping a 104-83 decision to host Arizona Christian on Monday in Phoenix.
In what started as a back-and-forth affair, Menlo was tied with ACU at the 10 minute mark, but the Firestorm then mounted a 12-0 run to take a 34-22 lead and never looked back. Menlo did manage to trim its deficit to just five points heading into the break, but a strong second half from the Firestorm did the Oaks in as they fell to 1-12 while Arizona Christian improved to 9-3 overall.
Menlo's Austen Brooks led all scorers with 24 points on 9-for-16 shooting including 4-of-6 from 3-point range. Tyler Evans connected on 4-of-5 3-point attempts for a 14-point effort while Ben Graham was close behind with 12 points.