BG guard Jillian Halfhill drives on Drexel guard Meghan Creighton during WNIT action on Thursday at the Stroh Center.
BOWLING GREEN — In the end, the Bowling Green State University’s 50-47 loss to Drexel in the third round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament was easy to explain.
The Dragons’ Hollie Mershon was the difference as she dominated the final three minutes, scoring all nine of her team’s points while the Falcons managed only four.
“She really turned it on in the last few minutes and took over the game,” BG’s Chrissy Steffen said of Mershon. “She really carried them on her back.”
Steffen scored 14 points while Alexis Rogers added 12 as the Falcons finished the season with a 24-11 record.
Jill Stein nearly posted a double-double, finishing with nine points and nine rebounds.
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Mershon finished with 19 points while Taylor Wootton added 10 for Drexel, which will play at Auburn in the WNIT quarterfinals.
Bowling Green led 43-41 when Mershon took over with 3:10 to play. She made a layup, was fouled, and made the free throw to give the Dragons a lead.
Rogers made a layup in traffic on the next possession to make it 45-44, but another layup by Mershon gave Drexel the lead for good with 2:27 on the clock.
“I was just trying to get to the basket and draw some fouls,” Mershon said.
“It depends on the plays coach [Denise Dillon] is calling, but usually at the end of the game it falls on me if we’re looking to get a quick shot.”
Bowling Green failed to score on its next two possessions — including a good look at a 3-pointer from the corner by Steffen that didn’t fall — and Mershon connected on four free throws in the final 20.9 seconds to seal the win.
“I felt I had a good look at the end — I just didn’t make it,” Steffen said.
It was a thrilling finish to a low-possession game that saw the Falcons start each half the same way: Slowly.
In the first half, Bowling Green made only one of its first seven shots and turned the ball over five times and found itself trailing 12-4 with 11:56 to play. The Falcons scored the next 14 points in a four-minute span to lead 18-14, and Jillian Halfhill made a shot at the halftime buzzer to give BG a 25-23 lead.
Drexel started the second half on a 7-2 run and Bowling Green wasn’t able to reel the Dragons in until Jill Stein’s three-point play at 7:19 tied the game at 38-38.
That set the stage for Mershon, who had been held to just 10 points — a little more than half her season’s average — thanks to a strong defensive effort by freshman Miriam Justinger and numerous double-teams by her teammates.
“She’s an all-around good player,” Justinger said of Mershon. “They set a lot of flat ball-screens for her, and she’s really good at attacking the rim. And she has a really good first step.”
Mershon’s fast finish resulted in a season-ending loss in front of a Stroh Center crowd of 1,571 that Steffen, one of four seniors on the team, called “bittersweet.”
“I enjoyed the four years I had here,” she said. “To have a crowd like we did for my last game – I just couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Justinger said she and her returning teammates are saddened that Steffen and fellow seniors Simone Eli, Danielle Havel, and Allison Papenfuss are leaving the program.
NOTES: Bowling Green’s seniors finished with a 103-30 record with the program. ... The 50 points the Falcons allowed was the second-fewest points BG gave up in a loss this season. The only lower total was the 48 Toledo scored in its win at the Stroh Center on Jan. 13. ... Bowling Green is 4-5 all-time in the WNIT. ... Steffen finished her career with 1,245 points, the 16th-highest total in school history. She also made 184 3-pointers to rank fourth all-time at BGSU.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481, or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.