Rockets close call

TOLEDO, OH â?? Senior Andola Dortch scored 17 points, including a key three-point play in the final minute, to lead Toledo to a 73-71 victory over Northern Illinois on Thursday morning in Mid-American Conference action in Savage Arena.

The Huskies (5-7, 1-1 MAC) fought back from an 18-point deficit to make it a two-point game, 70-68, with 1:10 left when Ally Lehman knocked down a baseline jumper. But Dortch came right back and converted a three-point play on a drive in which she ended up on her back on the baseline with 57.7 seconds left. NIUâ??s Natecia Augusta countered with three-point play of her own, bringing the margin back to two, 73-71, with 37 seconds left.

Toledo (6-7, 1-1 MAC) worked the game clock down to 15 seconds before senior Janelle Reed-Lewis misfired on a short jumper. Rocket fans then held their collective breath as NIUâ??s Danny Pulliam drove the length of the floor only to see her layup roll off the rim.

Dortch added eight assists and four rebounds to her 17 points. Junior Inma Zanoguera had 14 points and five rebounds. NIU was led by Amanda Corralâ??s 20 points.

The game was played in the morning as part of UTâ??s â??Educational Dayâ?? promotion. However, most elementary school students were not able to attend due to Toledo Public Schools remaining closed following Sundayâ??s snowstorm.

The Rockets led at halftime, 40-26, thanks to a sizzling 17-of-30 (56.7%) mark from the floor, as well as 12 points from Zanoguera and 10 from senior Briana Jones. Dortch capped a 22-5 run that gave Toledo a 27-11 lead, forcing NIU to call timeout with 9:15 left in the half. UT extended the first-half lead to 18 points before the Huskies began to claw back. Corralâ??s drive in the lane with three minutes left cut the lead to 37-25. But the Rockets held NIU to one free throw for the remainder of the half, settling on a 14-point advantage at the break.

The second half was a different story, however, as Toledo shot just 5-of-17 (29.4%) from the field and had to hold on for the victory. NIU opened the half with a 6-2 run to cut the lead to 42-32. UT sophomore Ana Capotosto countered with four consecutive free throws and freshman Janice Monakana converted a three-point play to push the lead back to 15, 49-34, with 15:33 to play.

Toledo was able to maintain a comfortable lead until midway in the second half when the Huskies made their run. The Rockets extended their margin to 19 points, 57-39, on a pair of free throws by Dortch with 10:47 left. But once again, Northern Illinois battled back, trimming the lead to 63-53 when Alicia Johnsonâ??s free throw with 7:30 to play capped a 9-2 Huskie run.

Corral knocked down a pair of jumpers, the second coming with 3:08 left to pull NIU to within seven, 69-62. Moments later, Coral sank a pair of free throws to cut the lead to three, 69-66. Following a free throw by Dortch, NIUâ??s Lehman knocked down a 15-foot baseline jumper to reduce Toledoâ??s lead to 70-68 with 1:08 to play, setting up the drama of the final minute of play.

The Rockets return to action on Sunday when they host Miami at 2:00 p.m.

Courtesy: Toledo Athletics