Dragons don’t panic, rally to defeat Malone

The word was “panic,” and despite the situation, it wasn’t to be found. Not that there wasn’t opportunity.

Tiffin weathered an abysmal 6-for-28 shooting effort in the first half and trailed 34-22 at the 14:43 mark of the second half before rallying from there Thursday a for 56-43 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference win over Malone.

The result moved both to 8-7 overall, but showed the differences in both programs, Malone coach Jason Mishler said.

“They’re a lot tougher than we are. They’re where we want to be. They’re the type of team that wins these games,” he said. “They’re a more mature team. I know they’re a young team, too, but they’re a more mature team in terms of the program and what they’re trying to do.”

And what the Pioneers (4-7 GLIAC) want to do, he said, is become more like the Dragons (5-6 GLIAC).

“We’re not any good. We’re no good, our team’s no good, and we don’t really want to be good yet at this stage of our program and where we’re at,” Mishler said. “We need to take away [from this game] the type of toughness that they have: to be down 12 and come back, to be down 10 and not panic, to be down eight. We’re not capable of doing that yet. We’re not to that level yet.

“That can change really quick and I’m hoping we can learn from what they were able to do,” he said. “There was no panic with (TU), that’s for sure.”

There was opportunity for it, though.

Sydnee Penn netted four buckets in the game’s first 5:20 to stake Malone to a 10-2 lead and TU never got closer than four the rest of period until Mary Kate Campbell hit two foul shots with 1:17 left in the half to cut the deficit to 21-17.

Neither team scored again until halftime, and both found scoring of any kind difficult in the first 20 minutes – along with TU’s woes from the field, Malone went 10 for 30, which included an 0-for-12 showing on 3-pointers.

TU coach Pam Oswald said her team’s troubles stemmed in part from a friendly rivalry – Mishler was her assistant during her first two years with the Dragons, and his graduate assistant, Mandy Jaeb, played the last four years for Tiffin.

“These kids, the upperclassmen, played with Mandy last year, so I think emotions were kind of high,” Oswald said. “I think in that first half, our kids had a ton of energy, but it was a lot of scattered energy and I think that’s what resulted in a lot of our poor shot selection. We were more able to kind of settle down in the second half and find a rhythm.”

The Pioneers seemed to fix their problems first, capping a 13-5 run with Deborah Simmers’ 3-pointer for the 12-point cushion.

But the Dragons took the momentum from there.

Buckets by Erica Mathis, Jessica Farr, Jordan Fraley (3-pointer) and Macy Byrd – all bench players – cut the deficit to 34-32 by the 11:06 mark, and Stephanie Kelly’s two foul shots 36 seconds later knotted the game.

It was nothing new for Oswald.

“We’ve been through a lot of storms like that, as far as getting a slow start on things. This team’s really resilient in the fact they continue to dig, they continue to keep playing hard,” she said. “I just felt that after a couple turns there, the momentum was just able to swing a little bit more our way.

“I’ve been in this long enough to know that it’s going to be a game of runs. This season, our kids never panic, so I just have to believe in the cause and believe we’re going to be able to get things turned around and just be able to keep fighting,” she said. “To me, it’s possession by possession, that’s what we talked about in our timeouts. We’ve just got to keep digging in.”

The teams traded buckets from there for a few minutes before Kelly’s jumper off the left wing put TU up for good at 38-36 with 7:36 left.

Tiffin closed the game on an 18-7 run, with Jessica Harris netting six of her team-high 14 during that run. Fraley added another five points over the stretch on her way to 11 points.

Harris also hauled in a game-high 15 rebounds, Kelly chipped in 11 points and six assists, Fraley dished four assists and Melissa Gilliland tallied seven points, three assists and three steals.

Simmers led everyone with 17 points for the Pioneers, adding six boards. Penn scored 12 points and Lindsy Snyder tossed in eight points.

“We played slow on offense. When we started to struggle, we slowed down and played more tentative, and so weren’t able to use that speed,” Mishler said. “But that’s a credit to [TU]. They got us in a half court. Any deficiency they’re going to have, they’re going to make up for through effort, and that’s what we want to try to do.”