YORK, Pa. – Freshman forward Kristen Haley recorded a career-best 23 points in York's (13-12, 10-6 CAC) 64-56 victory over rival Salisbury University (9-16, 6-10 CAC) on Senior Night, to close out the regular season and secure the Green and White the number three seed in the upcoming Capital Athletic Conference Tournament.
Beginning immediately following the tip-off the Green and White implemented their game-long game plan of pounding the ball down low to both senior center Jamie Sapp and Haley, a scheme to which the Sea Gulls had no answer. Haley played her part perfectly, as she received every pass flawlessly and accounted for 13 of the team's first 19 points.
"They just could not stop us in the post tonight," stated Haley. "That was the game plan."
The rest of the squad complemented Haley impeccably during the first half of play, as they kept tight pressure on Salisbury even though the Spartans were getting out-battled for defensive rebounds. With 4:11 remaining in the first half, a three-pointer by Gulls' guard KC Curran tied the score at 25, only to have senior forward Gayle Exley answer back with a jumper from the corner less than 30 seconds later.
That would be the closest that Salisbury came to tying the score for the remainder of the half as Haley hit a layup following a jump ball four seconds later to put the Green and White up by four. Less than one second afterward, freshman point guard Aja Wallpher performed the heads-up play of the night by stealing the in-bounds pass and converting a layup of her own to give the Spartans a six-point advantage.
York ended the first half on a high-note as Wallpher shaved seconds off the clock to ensure the final shot, a jumper that she nailed as time expired, to give the Spartans a 35-27 lead.
The second half was more of the same, as York continued to pass the ball deep in the paint and allow their forwards to overpower the Salisbury defenders. Sapp successfully completed the first three baskets of the second half, which gave the Spartans a 10-point lead with 16:58 remainin
"The team did a great job finding Haley and Sapp down low in the second-half and even though they were double-teamed, they still went up strong," stated coach Betsy Witman.
After a 30-second timeout by Salisbury halfway through the second half, the Gulls began to increase the tempo of the game and put some pressure on the Green and White as they converted the next three shots thereafter and cut the lead to nine with 8:51 remaining. Salisbury continued to apply pressure for the rest of the second half and was able to close the gap by dwindling York's lead to six, 58-52, with only :50 left.
However, the Gulls would fall just short as Witman put in the four Spartan seniors to close out the game to secure the win and effectively end the team's two-game losing streak heading into the Conference Tournament.
Haley was extremely modest following the game, insisting that her individual achievements not overshadow the hard work put forth by the careers of Exley, Sapp, Caitlyn Byrne and Val Hudson, York's four seniors.
"This group is really special," stated Witman. "Not all of them saw a lot of court time, but [they all] have been great leaders this year."
The guidance and mentorship provided by this group of veterans is especially crucial as the Spartans welcomed nine new players to their roster for the 2010-11 season, eight of which were freshmen.
"We are such a young team," Whitman continued to say. "We need to win three games and we get the banner. It's a new season on Tuesday. I really want to get these young kids to the championship game, and the seniors, too. I want to win a championship, which is something we've never done in this program."
As the number three seed in the Conference, York will host St. Mary's for the first round of the CAC Playoffs on Tuesday, Feb. 22. Tip time is set for 6:00 pm at Charles Wolf Gymnasium.
Story written by Matt Pucci, Contributing Writer to the Athletic Communications Office