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Cooke serves up career-high as Owls top Jackets

DEFIANCE, Ohio – The Kenyon College Owls women’s basketball team (1-4) traveled to Northwest Ohio on Tuesday night to take on the Defiance College Yellow Jackets (0-5), as each team was hungry and searching for its first win of the season. 

After a back-and-forth game that needed the full 40 minutes to develop, senior Claudia Cooke carved through the Defiance defenders and dropped a career-high 35 points as the Owls feasted for the team’s first win of the season 70-64.

Cooke’s 35-point evening crushed her previous record of 24, which she ordered up last year against Wooster. Her performance tonight is the sixth-best single-game total in Kenyon women’s basketball program history. Additionally, she was nearly perfect from the free throw line, going 21-22 (95.5 percent) and setting a program record for both attempts and makes, a record which has stood since 1993. 

The senior’s record-setting night did get off to a slow start, however, as she scored two points in the first quarter. To open the game, Mikayla Rudolph gave the Owls the start needed to build a lead. She netted five points, hauled in two rebounds, and dished out one assist. In the quarter, Kenyon shot 50% from the field, 66% from three, and grabbed more rebounds than its opponent, but eight turnovers kept Defiance in the game as the Owls led 15-10 lead after one. 

In the second frame, Cooke began to turn up the heat, getting seven of the team’s 14 points in the quarter. The Owls held the lead until one minute remained in the half, when Kaiya Albert drained a three to tie the score at 27. On the next possession, Cooke drove to the hoop, drew a foul, and folded in both free throws to put Kenyon up 29-27 to end the opening 20 minutes. 

Coming out of the break, Cooke and Rudolph teamed up for eight points to match Defiance basket for basket as Kenyon’s lead stayed in the low single digits for the majority of the quarter.

With 2:53 to play, Melana Pomerants hit a high, arching three to put Kenyon up by five, its largest lead of the half. In the third, Cooke went a perfect six of six from the charity stripe and after 30 minutes of play, Kenyon’s lead was a single point at 45-44. 

The Owls fired out of the intermission into the fourth quarter, going on an 11-4 run as the game reached its final five minutes. The spark came from a five-point possession at the 6:23 mark, as a Yellow Jacket technical foul sent Bela Krslovic to the free throw line. After sinking both shots, Kenyon got the ball back and Krslovic drained a long three to give the Owls a six-point lead, and after a Rudolph layup and four points from Cooke, Kenyon opened up a ten-point advantage. 

Defiance did not go away easily, as Taylor Bates hit the next three shots for the home team, capitalizing on an and-one to bring the deficit down to five with 2:30 left to play. However, down the stretch, Cooke took over the game entirely, and there was nothing Defiance could do to stop her. She scored the team’s final fourteen points, going a perfect 10-10 from the line and 2-2 from the field, and guided Kenyon to its first win of the season 70-64. 

For Cooke’s final bill, she tallied 35 points on 7-10 (70 percent) shooting from the field and 21-22 (95.5 percent) from the line. She also corralled seven rebounds and dished out two assists. Rudolph ended with 12 points, six rebounds, two assists, and three steals. Krslovic had five points and shot 50 percent from three, while Pomerants, Megan Lieb, and Anissa Hardy each chipped in four points. 

The team shot 17-45 (37.8 percent) from the field, 4-13 (30.8 percent) from three, and 32-40 (80 percent) from the free throw line. The Owls’ 32 made free throws also broke a program record for a single game, soaring past the previous placeholder of 29 from 1993. 

The win moves the Owls to 1-4 on the season. After taking the weekend off for the holiday, the Owls have a reservation with the Earlham College Quakers on Tuesday, November 28 at 6:30 pm from Tomsich Arena in Gambier, Ohio. 

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