NEWPORT NEWS, VA - The York College women's basketball team ran into a red hot Christopher Newport Captain squad in the opening round of the NCAA Division III Tournament as the host Captains downed the Spartans 81-52 in the opening round on Friday night in Newport News, VA.
The Spartans, who earned their ticket to the NCAA Tournament courtesy of their Capital Athletic Conference championship last weekend, conclude their season with a mark of 16-13. The Captains, who are ranked 11th in the nation, improve to 26-3 overall and will face Johns Hopkins Saturday night for the right to advance to the Sweet 16. Newport has now won seven straight and 11 of their last 12.
Captain All-American Chelsie Schweers established a new Freeman Center NCAA Tournament scoring effort as the senior guard poured in 33 points to pace the hosts. Freshman guard Kelsey Murphy led the Spartans with 14 points while fellow frosh Kristen Haley, the newly minted CAC Rookie-of-the-Year, finished with her team leading seventh double-double of the year, notching 11 points and 11 rebounds.
The Captains got off to a strong start as they jumped out to a 9-0 lead as Schweers tallied five of the opening nine points. The Spartans scored 12 of the next 18 points of the game, trimming their deficit to 15-12 with 11:01 left in the half. That's when the Captains put together a 22-6 run to take a 37-18 lead with 4:29 remaining in the half. Senior Gayle Exley hit a three to stem the tide momentarily but then the Captains scored 12 of the final 16 points of the half to take a commanding 24-point lead to the break.
Newport played like one of the top teams in the nation in the first half as they shot 51.3% from the floor including a blistering 5-of-7 from three and a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line. The Spartans shot just 34.5% including 3-of-9 from three. The Captains also hammered York on the glass, 25-15, in the opening half while they forced 12 York miscues, which led to 17 points.
The second half saw the Spartans continue to battle and fight but the Captains' experience and talent would prove too great an obstacle for the very youthful Green and White. The Spartans trailed by as many as 32 before putting together a 21-9 run to cut the lead to 20 at 70-50. The Captains closed the final five minutes of the game on an 11-3 spurt, providing for the final margin.
Schweers, who was a sophomore when the Spartans eliminated the Captains in the NCAA Tournament two seasons ago, exacted a measure of revenge as she was 11-for-23 from the floor including 7-for-15 from three and a perfect 4-for-4 from the stripe. She added five rebounds, four assists, and four steals in her 33 minutes of work. Her 33 points also pushed her over the top as the all-time leading scorer, men's or women's, in Christopher Newport basketball history.
Barbara Davis added 14 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two steals for the Captains. Jessica Moore led CNU on the glass with 10 caroms while she also had six points and four assists.
Murphy was 4-for-10 from the field including 4-for-9 from three and 2-for-2 from the stripe in her 29 minutes of action. She also had a pair of rebounds and a pair of assists for York. Haley was 5-for-14 from the floor en route to her 11 points while she also blocked two shots. Senior Jaimie Sapp finished the game with nine points and five rebounds as she closed the book on an outstanding career. Fellow senior Gayle Exley chipped in six points and a career-high three blocked shots in her 17 minutes of action.
The Captains finished the contest shooting 45.2% from the floor while they were 9-for-19 (47.4%) from three and 6-for-8 (75%) from the stripe. York shot 36.5% from the floor but had one of their better shooting nights from distance as they went 8-for-17 (47.1%). The Spartans struggled from the free throw line, converting just 6-for-11 in the game.
The Captains held a decided edge on the glass, out-rebounding the Green and White 48-29 while they also had a 38-12 bulge in points in the paint. Christopher Newport also held a 23-0 advantage in points off turnovers as the Spartans committed 18 miscues to just eight for the hosts.
Spartan head coach Betsy Witman was proud of the effort of her team.
"I am extremely proud of this group, especially our seniors," said Witman. "To earn a conference championship and make it to the NCAA Tournament is more than I could have expected this year. I hate that our year ends with a loss but we accomplished so much. This has been one of my most enjoyable years in coaching."
Witman must replace Sapp, Exley, Val Hudson, and Caitlin Byrne but will welcome back three-time All-CAC guard April Sparkman who missed the year due to knee surgery. Also coming back are starters Haley, Murphy, Aja Wallpher, and Brittany Hicks while key reserves Brittany Percich, Jess Selby, Khadija Mitchell, and Madeline Sloan also return for York.
The NCAA Tournament appearance for the Spartans is their second in three years as York is now 2-2 in the big dance.