Epic Defensive Effort Leads Spartans to CAC Championship Game; Will Host Wesley Saturday
ARLINGTON, VA – The York College women's basketball team used an epic defensive effort to upset second-seeded Marymount University 37-32 in the Capital Athletic Conference semifinals on Thursday night in Arlington, VA. The Spartans, who advance to the CAC Championship game for the second time in three years, will host Wesley College in the championship tilt on Saturday afternoon. The Wolverines upset top-seeded Mary Washington in the other semifinal, 54-53, in Fredericksburg, VA.
The Spartans, who are the three seed in the tournament, improve to 15-12 overall as they have won three straight while the Saints see their season come to a close with a mark of 13-10. The Spartans defeated the Saints three times this season, the first time in school history that has happened.
The game is the lowest scoring contest in conference tournament history. The 37 points sets a new CAC playoff record for the lowest winning score in the history of the tournament. It beats the previous record of 46 set by Catholic University as they downed St. Mary's 46-42 in the CAC quarterfinals in 2003. The 32 points by the Saints is the third lowest score in the tournament's history. Goucher scored just 11 points in the CAC quarterfinals in 1998 as the Gophers hold that dubious distinction.
Freshman Brittany Hicks led the Spartans with 11 points and six rebounds. Beth Wiggins paced the Saints with a game-high 12 points while she also had 11 caroms.
The first half was nothing more than two good defensive teams trading defensive stop after defensive stop. The Saints held a 5-4 lead until Spartan senior Jaimie Sapp collected an offensive rebound and got a put back to put the Green and White up 6-5 with 8:57 remaining in the half. The Spartans scored seven of the next nine points of the game to take a 13-7 lead with 6:52 left before halftime. The Spartans would not score the remainder of the half as the Saints went on a 5-0 run, cutting the Spartan halftime lead to 13-12.
Marymount took their only lead of the second half just 1:10 into the stanza as Maame Amponsah hit a pair of free throws to give the Saints a 14-13 lead. York got a three from Hicks on the ensuing possession and the Green and White would not trail the rest of the way. It didn't mean there weren't moments of anxiety for the Spartans. The York lead grew to as many as eight twice but the Saints refused to go away, as they used an 8-1 run to tie the game at 30. Senior Gayle Exley then hit one of the biggest shots of her Spartan career as she canned a three pointer with 3:57 left, giving York a 33-30 lead.
Freshman Aja Wallpher pushed the lead to 34-30 as she split a pair of free throws with 1:31 left. Freshman Kelsey Murphy converted two huge free throws with 21 seconds remaining as the York lead grew to 36-30. Amanda Billy got an offensive rebound and put back with nine seconds left but Hicks sealed the win with a free throw with seven seconds left providing York with their final margin of victory.
Spartan head coach Betsy Witman was thrilled with the win.
"I am so happy for this team and our coaches," said Witman. "The kids did a tremendous job of carrying out the defensive game plan. I thought we were far more patient offensively in the second half and that really helped us. We didn't shoot well but credit Marymount as they did a good job of playing defense against us. I thought our kids battled and played very composed down the stretch."
Hicks finished the game shooting 2-for-9 from the floor including 2-for-3 from downtown. She converted 5-of-8 from the free throw line en route to her 11 points. Exley, Sapp, and freshman Kristen Haley each added six points to the Spartan cause. Haley led the Spartans with eight rebounds. Wallpher had another stellar floor game as she had six assists, seven rebounds, and four points for York.
Wiggins shot 5-for-12 from the floor and 2-for-2 from the line as she recorded the double-double for the Saints. Amponsah added eight points and 10 rebounds but she committed seven turnovers in the loss. Billy, the sixth leading scorer in the CAC, was held to just five points on 2-of-9 shooting including 1-of-4 from three.
Both teams struggled to shoot the ball as York converted just 21.3% from the field while they went 4-for-16 (25%) from three. The Spartans shot 59.1% (13-for-22) from the free throw line but were an efficient 12-for-18 in the second half. The Saints shot 28.6% from the field while they were just 1-for-6 (16.7%) from distance. The Saints converted just 7-of-12 (58.3%) from the charity stripe.
The Saints held a significant 42-32 edge on the glass however the Spartans forced 26 turnovers in the game. York committed just 13 turnovers in the win, which ties a season low for the Green and White. Despite being outrebounded by ten caroms, the Spartans attempted five more shots than the Saints thanks to the large disparity in turnovers.
The Spartans are appearing in their third CAC Championship game. The Spartans and Wolverines split their two regular season games with each team capturing a victory on their home court. The Spartans downed the Wolverines 61-54 on December 1 in York while Wesley recorded a 54-50 win on February 16 in Dover. Tip time from Charles Wolf Gymnasium is set for 2:00 pm.