|There was plenty to celebrate for RIT in the program's first trip to the Sweet 16.
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RIT advanced to the Sweet 16 of the 2018 Division III NCAA Tournament with a 79-76 win at TCNJ. It is the first-ever trip to the Sweet 16 for the Tigers in the 31-year history of the program.
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Cori Okada scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer with 41 seconds to play to give the Tigers the lead. On the next possession, Okada fed Tara Lynch with 10 seconds to play to put RIT back up by three.
TCNJ's last shot was contested and fell short, touching off the celebration.
RIT, which rallied from 16 points down in the third quarter, shot 46.9 percent from the floor on 30-of-64 shooting. The Tigers went 10-of-21 from beyond the arc, and made 9-of-12 free throws. Okada led all scorers with 25 points. Jessica Glax tallied 15 points and eight rebounds, while Sabrina Wolfe chipped in 12 points. Lynch added eight points and eight rebounds for the Tigers, who have won a program-record 23 games.
"It was an amazing game!" said a jubilant RIT head coach Amy Reed. "Cori just took over the basketball game. It was a Herculean effort, and she found a way to get it done."
Kate O'Leary led TCNJ (22-7) with 15 points, while Shannon Devitt tallied 14 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for the Lions who shot 46.4 percent from the floor..
Both RIT and TCNJ came out firing in the early moments of the first quarter. The Tigers opened 4-for-7 from the floor, while the Lions opened 5-of-6, including 4-of-4 from beyond the arc. Wolfe scored three early points for the Tigers. Devitt capped off a 5-0 spurt by TCNJ, taking a 14-9 lead on a bucket by Devitt at 4:54 of the quarter. The Tigers responded by scoring six straight points, taking a 15-14 lead on a layup by Wolfe late in the quarter. O'Leary drained a 3-pointer inside the last minute to give TCNJ a 19-15 lead at the end of first quarter.
The Lions took a seven-point lead, their largest of the game to that point, on a pair of free-throws from Devitt. Glaz cut the lead to 23-20 with her 3-pointer on RIT's next possession. Okada cut the TCNJ lead to 23-22 on her jumper at the 6:58 mark of the second quarter. Wolfe made it 26-24 with her jumper with 6:20 to play in the half.
Byrne gave TCNJ a 34-26 lead on her three-pointer at the 4:37 mark of the second quarter. That bucket capped off an 8-2 run by the Lions. Okada broke the spurt with her layup with 4:01 to play to cut the TCNJ lead to 34-28. Brooke Stanley scored with 3:07 to play to cut the TCNJ to 36-32. The Lions closed out the half on an 8-0 run to lead 44-32 at the break.
RIT shot 50.0 percent from the floor in the opening half. Okada led the Tigers with eight points. Wolfe tallied seven points. Lynch grabbed six rebounds and had two blocks. TCNJ shot 50.0 percent from the floor. The Lions were 9-of-15 from beyond the arc. O'Leary led the Lions with 15 points.
TCNJ extended its lead to 53-37 early in the third quarter on a jumper by Samantha Famulare. Wolfe drained two straight a three-pointers to cut the TCNJ lead to 54-50 at the 3:46 mark of the quarter. That capped off a 13-1 run by the Tigers. TCNJ answered with a 6-2 spurt, extending the Lions lead back to 60-52 on a pair of free throws from Nikki Schott. Glaz converted a pair of free throws late in the quarter, but Devitt scored to make the score 63-55 heading into the fourth quarter. The Tigers outscored TCNJ 23-19 in the quarter to cut the lead to eight points.
Trailing 66-57 early in the fourth quarter, Glaz was fouled while attempting a 3-pointer. She banked the shot in despite the foul. She missed the ensuing foul shot, but cut the TCNJ lead to 66-60. On RIT's next possession, she drained her second straight 3-pointer to cut the TCNJ lead to 66-63 with 8:26 to play. Okada cut the Lions lead to 66-65 with her steal and layup inside seven minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Each team traded possessions without a basket. Byrne broke the drought with her bucket with 4:15 to play that gave TCNJ a 68-65 lead.
Okada tied the score with her 3-pointer on RIT's next possession, tying the score at 68-68. She gave RIT its first lead since late in the first quarter with her jumper with 3:20 to play to make it 70-68 Tigers. Nicole Shatsky answered back for TCNJ, draining a 3-pointer to give the Lions a 71-70 lead inside the last three minutes. Okada made it 72-71 Tigers with her jumper with 2:08 to play. Schum banked in a three-pointer with 1:32 to play to give TCNJ a 74-72 lead. On the next possession, Wolfe got an offensive rebound and scored with 1:05 to play that tied the score at 74-74.
RIT got the ball off a missed shot, and Okada banked in a three-pointer with 41 seconds to play that gave the Tigers a 77-74 lead. Her shot appeared to be off, but banked in off the backboard to give the Tigers the lead.
"I did not doubt for one second that they couldn't do it," said Reed. "We turned up our defensive pressure, and bothered them defensively, and we came out and made players."
Devitt got free underneath late and scored to cut the RIT lead to 77-76. On perhaps the biggest possession of the season, Lynch scored off an assist from Okada with 10.1 seconds to play to make it 79-76 RIT.
TCNJ had one last chance, but Byrne's 3-pointer came off to give RIT the win. The Tigers held the Lions to 13 points, and four turnovers in the fourth quarter.
"I love this team," said Reed. "They have so much heart. I want to keep going."