With the game into its final minutes and Tiffin University on its way to a victory over Ohio Dominican, the Gillmor Center crowd was quieted when the Dragons' star post, senior Jessica Harris, went down.
Harris, who had her usual rock-solid game with 12 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks, put a scare into her teammates and coaches. In a season where Tiffin already lost senior guard Karli Mast, losing Harris would be devastating to a team trying to make the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament.
"When Jess went down, I think we all kind of took a gasp," TU coach Pam Oswald said after Saturday's 67-50 win over the Panthers. "My biggest thing was, I had a sub there waiting for her. But it happens. She's a pretty tough kid."
Harris got up and walked off the court. In a postgame interview, she said she was OK.
The senior picked up her ninth double double this season despite playing just 24 minutes, and helped Tiffin up its record to 10-9, 7-8 in league play. The Dragons sit tied for ninth in the league. The top eight teams make it.
"We just want to get to (the GLIAC) tournament," Harris said. "I think everybody knows that. Our first step to getting to the tournament was beating ODU, and we weren't about to let them get in our way. I know I wasn't."
For all that Harris did Saturday, it was also what her teammates were able to do when she was on the bench. TU's reserves had a nice game, with Jordan Fraley leading TU with 13 points to go along with four assists, four steals. Overall, the Dragons outscored Ohio Dominican in bench points, 25-3.
"I think they did well," Harris said. "Everybody has a role on the team, and everybody played it well. I don't mind when they're in; I know everything's gonna be all right."
Oswald said it's important to rest Harris, and to give the program's younger players some experience.
"Once we get a little bit of a lead, I want be able to get our young kids in and get their feet wet," Oswald said. "It was nice being able to get (Marisa) Liburdi in, and being able to get (Jessica) Farr in for more minutes and things, but then being able to get (Harris) back in and try to get a rotation, just because the simple fact, that somewhere down the stretch we might have someone in foul trouble, and I want to be smart with our play."
Tiffin led almost the entire way, and held a 31-25 halftime advantage. Senior Stephanie Kelly got Tiffin going right away to start the second half, nailing 3s on back-to-back possessions to put the Dragons up 37-25.
"We just got more energy in the start of the second half," said Kelly, who had 12 points and four assists. "We set good screens to get me open."
But the lead didn't make Oswald or her players complacent. Not long after, Oswald was whistled for a technical after arguing what she thought should have been a foul on ODU.
If nothing else, the technical appeared to fire up Oswald's players. TU led 39-28 when the the technical was called. The Dragons immediately went on a 10-2 run that essentially put the game away.
"If my kids are gonna go out there and put forth effort ...then I'm gonna fight for them when I don't think (a call) is right," Oswald said. "I kind of let the moment get to me, but if that fired (my team) up, so be it. But I'm not gonna let something just get by."
The Panthers (5-12, 2-12) were led by Alex Hallenbeck, who had 10 points, 12 rebounds, and by Rachael Torey, who had 16 points.