BY DIAMOND HOLTON
The Salisbury University women’s basketball team became the 2015 Capital Athletic Conference Champions in a double overtime win against the University of Mary Washington, 74-68, in Maggs Gymnasium.
It was not an easy matchup for the Sea Gulls as they struggled early on being outscored and out-rebounded throughout the game. The Eagles had 31 total rebounds in the first half (22 being defensive), while the Sea Gulls only had 16 total.
The scoring by Mary Washington (20-7, 15-3 CAC) was evenly divided while Salisbury had senior Anna Hackett in double figures with 11 points (26 total) and the remainder of the team not over three points, respectively. The Eagles were also too big for Salisbury in the post making major plays inside scoring in the paint.
Senior Courtney McManus and sophomore Lauren Rothfield sunk back-to-back three-pointers to take the lead with under six minutes in the first, but UMW get off some quick jumpers to take back the lead headed to halftime, 29-23.
Sea Gulls (25-2, 17-1 CAC) held on to their ritual of second half comebacks as they went on a 16-3 run from the start with major hustle from Hackett. She drilled a three-pointer followed by a steal and assist to senior Sarah Seipp to bring the Gulls within one.
“This is what we tend to do, especially lately,” Hackett said. “It was a close game the whole time.”
After leading the game by seven off a 13-1 run, McManus shot a jumper to put SU up with under 10 minutes left in the half. The Eagles did not give up keeping the game tied at 50 with fewer than two minutes to go.
Some costly fouls put the Eagles up by four late in the game and sent senior Melanie Mocniak to the line to shoot three made free throws. With the game tied at 57, Mocniak blocked a shot, sending her team to overtime.
Mocniak came out shooting a three-pointer as Salisbury was down with 42.2 seconds left. The Eagles fouled Mocniak again sending her to the line shooting three more made free throws.
“I was so nervous and the first time I was really nervous and the second time I was not as nervous,” she said. “I was just like we got this and I know we can do it and this moment was meant to be for us. When I shot the second set of three’s and the second shot went in and out; that was really nerve-wrecking.”
A questionable foul sent Seipp to the bench because of foul trouble as the Eagles sunk both free throw attempts to put them up by two with 13 seconds left. Hackett found Kathy Albornoz in the paint for the game-tying lay-up sending them to double overtime.
Mary Washington fired a three which was followed by a three from Mocniak and another jumper. Hackett and Albornoz score two points apiece to extend their lead as McManus came through with a block that sealed the win.
Coach Kelly Lewandowski had never been more proud of her team and was ultimately in shock for this moment.
“Three of my seniors have been with me since my very first year when they were freshman, so it’s neat to see that this is what we’ve been talking about for four years and how hard they’ve worked to change this program and move it in the right direction,” Lewandowski said.
This win puts the Sea Gulls’ bid in the NCAA Tournament. Place and venue and their selection will be announced in the upcoming week.