YORK, PA-The York College women’s basketball made their NCAA Tournament debut a successful one as the Spartans defeated Christopher Newport University 75-61 in the opening round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament in York on Friday night. The Spartans, who are ranked tenth in the WBCA USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll and 12th in the d3hoops.com Top 25, improve to 26-2 overall while the Captains see their season come to a close at 22-7.
The Spartans and Captains were locked in a nip and tuck affair early in as neither team had more than a four point advantage until the Spartans took a five point lead on a three-point play from senior Amanda Andrews (Fallston, Md./Fallston) with 11:52 remaining in the first half. The Captains trimmed the York lead to one on two different occasions before the Spartans hit their guests with a quick 7-0 spurt to take a 32-24 lead with 6:57 showing on the clock. CNU scored four of the next six points before York ended the half by scoring eight of the final 12 points to seize a 42-32 lead at the break.
The Spartans built their lead to 11 early on in the second half before the Captains staged an impressive rally. Christopher Newport embarked on a 17-6 run that covered exactly eight minutes to turn an 11-point deficit into a 51-51 tie. The Spartans retook the lead before the Captains tied the contest again at 57 with 6:58 remaining. CNU then took their first lead since the opening minutes of the first half with a Lauren Gural lay up. The Spartans responded immediately as sophomore Jaimie Sapp (Bluemount, Va./Loudon Valley) hit buckets on consecutive trips and the Green and White would not trail again. Those two baskets kick started a game-ending run that saw the veteran Spartans outscore the youthful Captains 16-2 over the final six minutes of the game, preserving victory for York.
The Spartans were led by the sophomore duo of Sapp and guard April Sparkman (Walkersville, Md./Walkersville). Sapp recorded a double-double with 10 points and a career-high 10 rebounds. Sparkman did it on both ends of the floor as she tallied a team-high 19 points while she also blocked three shots and grabbed five rebounds. More importantly, she made life miserable for the Captains’ leading scorer, Chelsie Schweers. Sparkman’s defensive effort was a huge key for the Spartans. When she left the game in the first half, Schweers went off for eight of her game-high 20 points in a mere 1:04. Once she reentered the game, Sparkman limited Schweers to 5-of-16 shooting while she was guarding her.
Senior point guard Keli Ward (Nottingham, Pa./Oxford), who was earlier in the week named the CAC Player-of-the-Year, added 15 points, seven assists, five rebounds, and three steals in 38 minutes of action. Andrews played one of her best games in the last few weeks as she notched 13 points, handed out a career-high seven assists, and pulled down three rebounds for the Green and White.
Schweers led the Captains with her 20 points as she finished the game 8-for-19 from the floor and 3-for-7 from three. She made one of her two free throws while she also pulled down nine rebounds. Jessica Moore notched a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds while she also had a pair of assists. Alysa Kerr chipped in with eight points and six rebounds for the Captains.
The Spartans finished the game shooting 45.8% for the game. York was scorching in the first half as they converted 54.8% of their shots in the opening stanza but struggled a bit in the second. York finished the game shooting 40% from three and an uncharacteristic 65.2% from the stripe.
CNU shot 36.9% from the floor, 33.3% from three, and 58.8% from the stripe.
The smaller Captains handled the Spartans on the boards as they out-rebounded York 46-36 for the game. The Captains held an 11-5 edge in second chance points and a 32-30 margin in points in the paint. The Spartans forced 15 Captain miscues which they converted into 19 points while the Green and White had just eight turnovers in the game.
In the first opening round game, Baruch got double-doubles from point guard Monique Salmon and Kalea Davis en route to a 72-58 win over Cabrini. The Bearcats took a 31-18 lead into halftime and held off the Cavaliers in the second half to earn the victory and the date with the host Spartans on Saturday night.
Salmon, the NCAA leader in assists, finished the game with 17 points and 10 helpers while she also had six rebounds. Davis tallied 14 points and 11 boards while Awa Diop had 11 rebounds and five points. Christina Kelly scored 16 points and pulled in six boards for Baruch.
Kate Walck led the Cavaliers with 17 points while Dean Diamico added 10 points of her own. Brittany McLeod pulled in a team-high 10 rebounds while she also had seven points.
The Spartans and Bearcats square off with a berth in the Sweet 16 waiting. Game time Saturday night in Charles Wolf Gymnasium is set for 7:00 pm.
Keli Ward photo courtesy of Steve Doemland (www.stevedoemland.com)