St. Francis tops Mount women, wins NEC Mountaineers fail in bid for 3rd straight NCAA trip

March 10, 1996|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,SUN STAFF

EMMITSBURG -- The frustration that has been bottled up inside the St. Francis (Pa.) women's basketball team the past two seasons came pouring out last night. And it carried away Mount St. Mary's chances of earning its third consecutive bid to the NCAA tournament.

Accompanied by a large contingent of vocal fans and an even bigger wave of emotion, the Red Flash defeated the top-seeded Mountaineers, 83-75, in the Northeast Conference tournament final at Knott Arena.

Sophomore center Mary Markey reached a career high in points for the third straight game, this time with 29. That's almost 18 more than her season's average, and the primary reason that No. 2 seed St. Francis (19-10) could avenge losses to the Mount in the last two conference championships and make its first appearance in the NCAA's field of 64.

"I knew they were going to double-team me," Markey said, "but I thought I was going to have to step it up. The team knew that. I felt they were depending on me."

"She just dominated," said Mount coach Bill Sheahan, whose team had won the last three NEC tournaments. "We're going with primarily three post players, and two are freshmen and still learning the system. We were just a little late getting to her, but that was probably more her doing."

Freshman forward Carolyn Bull also set her career high with 12 points, including 10 in the second half. And the Red Flash committed a season-low eight turnovers.

"I'm still a little bit out there; I'm not really down to earth yet," said coach Jenny Przekwas.

"Coming down here almost makes it a little more special because we've come here the last two years and been very, very disappointed. I had a pretty good indication the way we came out for practice [Friday] that we were ready to play this game. In the past, I think we've been a little in awe or a little intimidated."

"I've been saying all year long that the third time's the charm," said guard Stacy Alexander (16 points), one of six seniors on the team.

Junior guard Amy Langville had 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists to lead the Mountaineers (21-8), who had won 12 in a row before last night. Forward Megan Gardiner, the first freshman to be named to the All-NEC first team, added 16 points, and junior forward Nikki Schroyer had 15.

For the Mountaineers, the past two seasons had ended with losses at Iowa and Alabama in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Last night ended in frustration.

They fell behind, 9-0, and didn't go ahead until 2: 33 remained in the half, when Schroyer scored to break a 33-33 tie.

Mount St. Mary's led at halftime, 39-37, and for the last time with 12: 15 remaining when Gardiner drove the baseline to put her team in front, 51-50.

St. Francis began pulling away with 2: 33 left when a three-point play by Colleen Joyce increased its lead to 76-68. The Mount twice got within three, the last time at 78-75 with 1: 10 remaining.

"Every time we got something going, we couldn't stop them at their end," Sheahan said. "We got all the offense we needed, but defensively, we just couldn't stop St. Francis. And that's not a criticism of us, that's a compliment to them.

"I told their coach after the game to enjoy it. This is going to really be a fun experience."

Pub Date: 3/10/96

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