Grinnell women knock off MWC leader Monmouth with best performance of the season

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GRINNELL, Iowa – One month ago, the Grinnell College women's basketball team took Midwest Conference leader Monmouth College to the wire before losing by nine.
The Pioneers finished that business Saturday with their best performance of the season.
Grinnell built a sizable lead and then held firm to post a 62-57 win before an enthusiastic crowd at Darby Gymnasium. Making the victory even more impressive was the fact the Pioneers were short-handed due to illness and then lost the services of three players due to foul outs late in the contest.
The defense was spectacular for the Pioneers, as they held Monmouth 23 points below its season scoring average.
Sasha Thomas '22 and Olivia Woolam '21 both had career days for the Pioneers, who won their second game in a row to improve to 6-9 in the MWC and 8-13 overall. Thomas was hot from deep, going 5-of-10 from 3-point land with 17 points to go along with a career-best three steals and three assists. Woolam added a career-high 12 points off the bench.
Other statistical leaders included Kate Tomczik '22 with 11 points and eight rebounds, Daria Guzzo '19 with 10 boards and three steals, Hanna Kessel '19 with a career-high four assists and four rebounds and Keely Conroy '22 with a career-high four rebounds.
Grinnell sank 22 free throws on the day, a season best, and blocked six shots which is second-best this year. Their point total was the third-highest of the season.
Monmouth, 11-3 in the MWC and 16-5 overall, shot out to an 8-2 lead before the Pioneers went to work. The key run was a nine-point spurt in the period in which Thomas made a 3-pointer, Aidan Coalson '22 sank two free throws, Thomas hit another trey and Guzzo nailed a free throw for a 13-10 Grinnell lead.
The Pioneers were ahead 14-13 after one period and maintained control most of the second period, leading 24-23 at the break. Monmouth tied it twice in the third period before the Pioneers shot away with an 11-2 run. Thomas began with a 3-pointer, Tomczik hit two free throws and Woolam two more for a 32-26 edge.
After Monmouth scored, Thomas cashed in on yet another 3-pointer and Kessel made a free throw to push Grinnell ahead 37-28. Later in the period, Woolam drained a 3-pointer from NBA range and added two free throws a bit after that as Grinnell took a 46-36 lead into the final quarter.
The Pioneers still led by 10 with just over five minutes left when Monmouth made a run, closing within 54-53. But Tomczik sank two critical free throws with 1:17 left to make it 56-53. The Fighting Scots again closed within one before Conroy, with ice in her veins, sank two free throws with 23 seconds left to put Grinnell up 59-56.
Monmouth was then fouled and made one of two free throws. Tomczik wrestled the rebound away after the second miss and was fouled, making one shot for a 60-57 lead with 16 seconds left.
As the Fighting Scots tried to set up a shot, Conroy was again the hero with a steal with 8 seconds left. She was fouled and calmly made both shots to secure the win for Grinnell. Monmouth missed two shots down the stretch and Tomczik gathered the final rebound as time expired, sending the Pioneers onto the floor in celebration.
During the contest, the Pioneers recoded their 74th block of the season, good for sixth all-time at Grinnell.
The Pioneers will look to avenge last week's loss to St. Norbert College when they face the Green Knights again next Saturday in De Pere, Wis. Tip-off is at 1 p.m.