FREDERICKSBURG, VA – The University of Mary Washington women's basketball team concluded a run to a Capital Athletic Conference championship as they edged the York College Spartans 50-46 in the CAC title game on Saturday afternoon in Fredericksburg, VA.
The Eagles improve to 27-0 overall while the Spartans fall to 22-5. The Spartans must now wait until the NCAA Tournament selection show on Monday afternoon to see if their stellar season will continue.
The Spartans had their chances in the game but the 7th ranked Eagles proved to just be a little too much in the end for York.
The first half was everything you would expect in a championship game. The Green and White jumped out to a quick 8-2 lead just under three minutes into the half. The spurt was started by a Kristen Haley triple on York's first possession and capped by a Kesley Murphy three at the 17:22 mark. The Eagles responded with an 8-1 run to take a 10-9 lead with 14:28 remaining in the half.
York answered with a 9-2 run, taking an 18-12 advantage with 9:58 remaining in the opening stanza. The Eagles continued to chip away at the Spartan lead, until they recaptured the lead on a Jenna McRae triple with 31 seconds left before the break.
The second half proved to be equally exciting and lived up to all the pre-game expectations.
The opening minutes of the second half were back and forth as there were four ties in the opening seven minutes of the stanza. The final tie came at 31 on an Aja Wallpher jumper with 13:02 remaining in the game. Wallpher hit another jumper two minutes later, giving York a 33-31 edge. It would be the last time York led in the contest. The Eagles went on a 7-0 run to forge a 38-33 lead with 7:43 showing on the clock.
York trimmed the lead to one on a Brittany Hicks hoop with 4:20 left. The Eagles got a basket and a turnover as the lead quickly went back to five just a minute later. Wallpher stopped the Eagle momentum with a tough three-point play, drawing York to within two with 3:03 remaining.
The Spartan defense forced a Katie Wimmer miss on the ensuing possession but York couldn't corral the rebound as UMW kept possession and McRae made York pay with a jumper, pushing the Eagle lead back to four.
On York's next possession, York got an offensive rebound of its own and Haley was fouled with 2:31 left. Haley sunk both free throws, bringing York back to within two. York then forced a turnover but came up empty on their next possession. UMW's Aby Diop drew a foul and proceeded to miss the first and make the second as York got the ball down three with 1:19 remaining.
The Eagles buckled down on defense, something you would expect from the top ranked defensive team in Division III women's basketball, as York couldn't get a good shot. The Spartans settled for a contested three and UMW senior Katie Wimmer collected the rebound. The Spartans forced a turnover and Wallpher drilled a jumper on the ensuing possession as York was down just one with 26 seconds left.
York fouled McRae and the senior calmly drilled the first. However, she missed the second but York could not come down with the rebound as Diop collected the loose ball, forcing York to foul. Wimmer converted both free throws with 11.6 seconds left to seal the four-point win for the Eagles.
Wimmer led the Eagles with 15 points, five assists, three rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots in her 32 minutes of work. McRae, the Eagles other senior standout, added 14 points and eight rebounds. The Eagles had just six other players score with none of them registering more than five points.
Haley led the Spartans with 15 points and six rebounds. She was 5-for-9 from the floor including 1-for-1 from three and 4-for-4 from the line. Wallpher was outstanding with 13 points, four steals, three assists, and one rebound as she played all 40 minutes for York. Wallpher currently leads the nation in assists per game at 7.2 helpers per contest. Hicks added eight points and six rebounds for YCP.
The Spartans shot 34.0% from the floor for the game while they made just 3-of-14 from distance. York was sharp from the free throw line, converting 9-of-11 (81.8%). The Eagles weren't much better from the floor as they converted 36.5% from the field. The Eagles were 2-for-12 (16.7%) from three and 10-for-14 (71.4%) from the stripe.
Mary Washington held a huge advantage on the glass, outrebounding York 40-28 in the game. The Eagles also pulled in 14 offensive rebounds in the game.
The Eagles earn their seventh berth to the NCAA Tournament in the last eight years. The NCAA Tournament field will be announced on Monday afternoon by the NCAA.