For the second-straight game, seventh-ranked Mary Washington outlasted an MAC Commonwealth foe in a nail-biter to advance in the NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Championship Tournament.
Last week, UMW topped Messiah to advance to the Sweet 16. Friday, the CAC Champion Eagles pulled away late for a 46-41 victory over Lebanon Valley. The undefeated Eagles (30-0) advance to Saturday's Elite 8 home game against third-ranked and undefeated George Fox (7 p.m.).
Meanwhile, York traveled to Amherst and fell to the host Jeffs in a Sweet 16 matchup. The Spartans, appearing in the Div. III Sweet 16 for the second time in four years, dropped a 79-55 verdict to the No. 1-ranked team in the country and finished the season with a 24-6 record.
Friday at Fredericksburg, Va., Lebanon Valley broke the ice in a tight contest with 8:52 left in the first half, as Caitlin Bach hit a free throw to give the Flying Dutchmen a four point lead at 12-8.
The Eagles trailed, 16-13, with 5:12 to go, but went on a 10-0
run - thanks in part to four points each from sophomore point
guard Sam Partonen and senior
guard Katie Wimmer - and led,
23-18, at halftime.
Lebanon Valley came out strong in the second half, starting the frame with a 16-2 run to gain the lead at 32-27 with 10:14 left. The Dutchmen led by as many as five, including at 41-36 with 3:33 remaining, but UMW answered with another run, scoring the final 10 points of the game for the 46-41 victory. That run included eight free throws from senior guard Jenna McRae.
The Eagle defense was again the key to victory, as they held LVC to 31.8% shooting from the floor, including 7-28 (25%) in the second half. UMW shat poorly as well, going 17-63 from the floor, but had 15 important offensive rebounds. Lebanon Valley had an edge at the free throw line, going 12-6, and the Eagles shot 11-17. Mary Washington forced 21 turnovers and committed just nine in the game.
Mcrae was the only Eagle in double figures, leading all scorers with 14 points, and also grabbed eight rebounds. Sophomore Aby Diop had eight points and four rebounds, and Partonen added six points, nine rebounds, and three steals. Lebanon Valley saw Tierney Hiltz and Kiely Chaklos each score 10.
Next up for Mary Washington, in its second "Elite 8" appearance in team history, is third ranked and fellow undefeated 30-0 George Fox University, which defeated Bowdoin College, 71-55, in the evening's opener. In that game, George Fox was led by Hannah Munger's 18 points and 11 rebounds. Game time for Saturday's tip at UMW's Anderson Center is 7 p.m.
At Amherst, Mass., YCP sophomore forward Brittany Hicks totaled game-highs of 26 points and 13 rebounds, but Amherst's balance with four players in double figures lifted the hosts to a 79-55 victory. The Spartans end the season with a 24-6 overall record while Amherst advances to an Elite 8 meeting vs. Emmanuel (Mass.) College with a 29-0 mark.
National Player of the Year candidate Caroline Steadman paced the winners with 20 points and received support from Lem Atanga McCormick (18 pts.), Marcia Voigt (17 pts.) and Megan Robertson (12 pts.).
Amherst broke the game open with an 11-2 run early in the second half, capped by a Robertson bucket that gave the hosts a 15-6 advantage. The Jeffs then closed the half on a 7-2 run to take a 32-18 lead to the halftime break.
Sophomore point guard Aja Wallpher, who was the only other Spartan to reach double digits with 10 points, sandwiched a pair of baskets around one of Hicks' two three-point goals in the game to keep the Spartans close early in the second half. But YCP never got the margin back to single digits as Amherst gradually pulled away for the 24-point victory.
YCP shot just 33% from the field (18-for-54), had nearly twice as many turnovers as the hosts (17-9) and was outrebounded by a 42-39 margin. The Spartans had just two three-point goals, both by Hicks in the second half, while Amherst was 9-for-21 from long range.