A stirring comeback by the University of Akron women's basketball team gave a big Education Day crowd plenty to get excited about Wednesday at Rhodes Arena.
Nearly 1,200 fifth-graders from the Akron area among 1,652 in attendance had an excuse to make noise as the Zips overcame a seven-point, fourth-quarter deficit and earned a 67-58 nonleague victory over visiting St. Bonaventure.
A torrid shooting display by Shayna Harmon and Megan Sefcik, who combined for all but five of their team's points during a 21-5 run over the final 6:11, wiped out a 53-46 lead by the Bonnies.
"Just a great win, another gritty win for our team," Zips coach Melissa Jackson said. "We came back and just battled and battled. What an amazing fourth quarter — 27 points. Just a really great win for us. Tight game and a great atmosphere here at the JAR."
The Zips (5-1) are off to their best six-game start in three years, tied for the second best ever in their Division I years.
Harmon, a 5-foot-9 junior, poured in a career-high 21 points and Sefcik, a 5-10 graduate student with senior eligibility, scored 20 as the Zips (5-1) continued their hot start to the season.
Sefcik scored 13 points and Harmon nine during the Zips' 27-point final quarter.
Sefcik, with a team-leading 19.2 points per game, had just seven through three quarters. But in the fourth, she made 5-of-6 shots, including 2-of-2 on 3-pointers.
The Zips' hopes seemed to be fading when St. Bonaventure's Danielle Migliore scored all nine of her points on 3-of-3 shooting from 3-point range, increasing the Bonnies' 41-40 third-quarter lead to 53-46 with 6:35 left.
Jackson changed to man-to-man defense briefly, the Bonnies' shooters cooled off and the tide began to turn.
The Zips led 28-25 at the end of a closely played first half. They were up by as much as seven in the third quarter before a 12-2 run gave the Bonnies a lead they maintained until a 3-pointer by Sefcik put the Zips ahead to stay (59-57) with 2:14 remaining.
UA scored eight of the nine points after that, making 4-of-6 free throws in the last 21 seconds.
Harmon also directed the offense much of the time at point guard in the absence of suspended starter Shaunay Edmonds. She made 7-of-12 field goals, including 2-of-2 on 3s, and 5-of-6 free throws.
Caitlin Vari, a 6-1 junior from Revere High, had 10 points and eight rebounds. Haliegh Reinoehl, also a 6-1 junior, scored eight points and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
McKenna Maycock led the Bonnies (2-6) with 14 points. Asianae Johnson added 11.
The Zips are now 5-1 over the last six years in Education Day games, which typically start at 10:30 a.m.
"Education Day for us is always a fun game," Sefcik said. "Not only for us but for everybody in the stands. It was nice for me because the school that I actually student-taught at [Seiberling Elementary] was up in the stands and I was able to see them after the game."
And once the Zips seized momentum, the fan support kicked in.
"We hit a couple shots and the crowd just erupted," Sefcik said. "And it continued to erupt, possession after possession. So I think that was in our favor, and it kind of helped us on the defensive end."