Losing experience gives Mount women lift, 50-45

Upset victim past 2 years, top seed in NEC survives semifinal vs. Sacred Heart

March 05, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

TRENTON, N.J. - Say this for the Mount St. Mary's women's basketball team in Vanessa Blair's three years as coach: The Mountaineers try to keep it interesting when it comes to the postseason.

In each of the past two seasons, the Mount had succumbed to upsets in the Northeast Conference tournament. As the top seed yesterday, the 15-13 team went to the brink once again before beating Sacred Heart, 50-45, to move into today's 5 p.m. final against Long Island.

At the end, Sacred Heart (15-14) - which led most of the game - had 1:04 to make up a 48-45 deficit, but didn't capitalize on two possessions. The last one, with about 20 seconds remaining, ended with a missed lay-in by Leslie Newhard, then two free throws by Mount guard Adrienne Harris.

"At the end, it was like, `We're here again, just don't lose,' " said Kia Williams, the NEC's Player of the Year. "We may be up a few or down a few, but we've got to pull it off, somehow, some way."

The Mountaineers won despite shooting 32 percent and logging their lowest scoring total of the season. By holding the Pioneers to 35 percent shooting and the fewest points they've allowed this season, the Mount showed a resourcefulness that had been missing in the past two tournaments.

Blair said she was mindful of the losses to Monmouth and Wagner in the past two years, both coming in the semifinals with her team as the No. 1 seed.

"It kept me up late last night thinking about it," Blair said. "The past two years, we'd been coming in explaining why we'd lost. It's been on my mind."

Beyond that, Blair was concerned about how her team would react after going eight days without a game. Indeed, the Mount went without a field goal until the 14:24 mark of the first half.

Mount St. Mary's scored nine straight points to take a 9-6 lead. But Newhard led 9-0 and 8-0 runs, and Sacred Heart led 25-22 at the half.

In the second, the Mountaineers didn't shoot much better, but used pressure defense to rush the game's pace and limit the impact of post players Brooke Kelly, Brooke Rutnik and Tara Brady, who combined for 15 points. The Mount - led by Kiana Fobbs' four steals - had 12 steals and forced 24 turnovers.

"We're a rhythm team, and their guards did a great job of taking us out of our rhythm," said Sacred Heart coach Ed Swanson, who watched Mount St. Mary's go on an 18-5 run, led by Williams.

Williams scored nine points in a six-minute span, including a pair of free throws that gave the Mountaineeers a 45-37 lead with 7:07 remaining. For Williams, it was rewarding to move past the semifinals and give the Mount a chance to appear in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1995.

"We know what it feels like to just be at the same spot, over and over again," Williams said. "So, it felt real good to get past this point that I've been at for the past three years."

SACRED HEART - Coonradt 2-8 2-2 6, Kelly 3-8 0-0 7, Rutnik 0-2 0-0 0, Crotty 1-3 0-0 3, Durmer 1-4 0-0 3, Kohl 0-2 0-0 0, Quinlivan 0-0 0-0 0, Maher 0-1 0-0 0, Brady 1-4 0-0 2, Newhard 8-17 8-9 24. Totals 16-49 10-11 45.

MOUNT ST. MARY'S - Williams 5-13 8-9 18, Foster 0-4 0-0 0, Bogart 1-4 2-4 4, Harris 4-13 3-3 12, Fobbs 2-5 2-2 6, Butters 3-6 0-0 6, Kokoajlo 0-0 0-0 0, Ritter 0-0 0-1 0, Baccouche 1-4 0-0 2, Alexander 0-0 0-0 0, Hegge 0-0 0-0 0, Lilly 1-4 0-0 2, Walton 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-53 15-19 50.

Halftime-Sacred Heart, 25-22. 3-point goals-SH 3-9 (Crotty 1-1, Kelly 1-2, Durmer 1-4, Rutnik 0-1, Kohl 0-1), MSM 1-10 (Harris 1-4, Lilly 0-3, Baccouche 0-3). Fouled out-Butters. Rebounds-SH 38 (Coonradt 8), MSM 35 (Williams 10). Assists-SH 13 (Durmer, Rutnik 3), MSM 7 (Harris, Fobbs 2). Total fouls-SH 19, MSM 14. A-NA.

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