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Orefice lifts Owls with late-game winner

GAMBIER, Ohio — The Kenyon College women’s basketball team opened its 2022-23 campaign with an exciting victory on its home court. Kenyon, competing for the first time as the Owls and under the leadership of a new coaching staff, earned a 55-54 win over Defiance College thanks to a last-second shot from Katie Orefice.

The senior guard did it all for the Owls, posting 22 points, nine rebounds, four steals, and three assists. Her points, assists, and steals were game-highs, and her final two points clinched the dramatic win for Kenyon.

The game was a back-and-forth battle with 10 lead changes and five ties, and neither team led by more than two possessions. Kenyon was in control for nearly half of the game, but they could only push their lead as high as five points midway through the second frame. Conversely, Defiance looked to pull away late in the third quarter, but the Owls stayed within six points of the Yellow Jackets to keep the game within reach.

Both squads needed time to get ramped up in their first game of the season as Defiance held a narrow 12-10 lead through one quarter in which the visitors shot 38.5 percent and Kenyon shot it at a 28.6 percent clip. The Owls nearly doubled their scoring in the second frame, outscoring Defiance 19-16 to take a one-point halftime lead.

The third quarter looked to be a turning point after Kenyon was outscored by seven and held to a 17.6 percent clip and an 0-9 mark from behind the three-point arc, but the Owls saved their best for last and pulled it together in the fourth quarter. 

Claudia Cooke, Orefice, and Anissa Hardy propelled Kenyon to a 9-3 run to open the final period, tying the game at 48 points apiece. A pair of free throws from Orefice put the Owls ahead 51-50 with 5:16 left to play, and the score persisted until the 3:23 mark when Cooke pushed the lead to three with two more points from the charity stripe.

Defiance jumped ahead 54-53 after two freebies and a layup with just over a minute to play. The Owls could not convert on two chances in the ensuing possession, but the Yellow Jackets missed an open three-pointer with 17 ticks remaining that would’ve iced the game. 

Kenyon did not waste the opportunity. Orefice took the ball at the top of the key, sliced through the Defiance defense, and found enough space to get a driving layup up, and the shot fell through with five seconds left in the game. Not knowing what hit them, the Yellow Jackets could not get a buzzer-beating look off, ensuring a 1-0 start to the season for Kenyon and new coaches Mary Corbett and Lexi Hassing.

Cooke was cooking to commence her junior campaign, compiling 18 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks while shooting a team-best 55.6 percent and converting 8-of-10 free throws. First-year forward Mikayla Rudolph made immediate contributions, adding 10 points, eight boards, and two steals while shooting 2-5 from three.

Kenyon’s plus-six (17-11) mark on the offensive glass helped the Owls overcome a slightly worse shooting percentage than Defiance, 33.9 percent to 30.2.

The Owls will look to build upon their strong start during a short road trip to Columbus, Ohio, where they will take on Capital University. The contest is set for a 7 p.m. tipoff on Saturday, Nov. 12th

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