ADA — Enjoy the view, Ohio Northern.
You have reached the top of the Ohio Athletic Conference.
Now the key is to stay there.
ONU ran OAC defending champion Mount Union off the court with a 62-45 women’s college basketball victory Saturday at the King Horn Center.
It was easily one of the biggest wins in ONU women’s basketball history, considering ONU is ranked No. 12 in the nation in Division III, while the Purple Raiders are ranked No. 13.
ONU, which has won 11 straight, stands 12-1, 6-0 in the OAC. Mount Union is 10-3, 4-2 in the OAC.
“All four years we’ve been here, we’ve never beat them,” ONU senior forward Joanna Snyder said. “They’ve been the chip in our shoulder and it feels great to come out and beat them and say, ‘We got over this hurdle, there’s nothing we can’t do.’’’
Added ONU’s Morgan Dumbaugh, “It’s amazing. It feels great to beat them, especially after the way last year ended up.”
Last year Mount Union won the OAC regular-season title and the OAC tournament title. ONU finished second in both.
“It’s huge. They’re the defending champ,” ONU coach Michelle Durand said. “To get to an OAC championship game, we have to beat them. We still have to play them again (at Mount Union on Feb. 9).”
ONU received contributions from nearly everyone. Dumbaugh (Ada) led the Polar Bears with 17 points, while Snyder (Fort Recovery) had 16 points and five rebounds. Cenzie Yoder (Celina) had 11 points and five boards.
Senior point guard Katie Mengos (Miami East) didn’t score, but dominated in every other area. The 5-foot-6 Mengos had a game-high 12 rebounds, with four assists and four steals.
Mengos also spent most of day clamping down on Mount Union’s top scorer, Rosa LaMattina (17.9 average) and held her to five points on 2 of 9 shooting.
“Katie’s our unsung hero and she does that all the time,” Durand said. “We knew we had to frustrate their point guard. She’s a very good player.”
Mengos said, “We were trying to contain her and give her a step because she is really quick. We wanted to get through the screens and stick on her.”
Off bench for ONU, freshman guard Brooke Espenschied had five points and four rebounds. Jordan Kimes scored six points.
ONU started slow and fell behind 12-4. But ONU’s man-to-man defense took hold, forced turnovers and jump started the offense.
“We were a little overexcited,” Durand said. “When we called timeout, we just said, ‘relax, relax.’’’
ONU ran off a 21-6 run to pull ahead 29-22. At the half, ONU was ahead, 32-28. The Polars’ defense continued to forced turnovers in the second half and forced 18 for the game.
“Every single game our plan is to shut them down, defensively, and then your defense transitions into offense,” Snyder said.
The Polar Bears were rebounding and running their way down the floor in the second half. ONU outscored the Purple Raiders 19-6 to grab a 51-34 lead with 9:58 to go.
Snyder started the second half with a three-point play. Then, Yoder scored five straight points, including a three-point play.
ONU’s Sara Kocian sank a long-range 3-pointer. Dumbaugh was next and scored four straight on a layup and a 15-footer.
ONU outrebounded Mount Union, 38-31. ONU shot 41 percent from the field and held the Purple Raiders to 38 percent.
ONU is shooting for its first OAC women’s title since 1988.
“The reason we’ve gotten to this point today is that because we’ve worked so hard, everyone on our team,” Snyder said. “Every player comes in outside of practice and gets shots in and over the summer they’re playing as many hours as they can.”