YORK, PA – The nationally ranked York College women's basketball team narrowly avoided an upset in the opening round of the Sixth Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in York as the Spartans edged the Wheaton College Lyons 55-54 in the opening round of the tournament on Saturday night in York.
The Lyons had a chance to win the game at the horn as Hallie Vitagliano had a long three come up short. The Spartans remained perfect at 9-0 while the Lyons fall to 4-5.
The Spartans got off to a fantastic start as they forced four Wheaton turnovers in the Lyons' first four possessions as York opened up an 8-0 lead. The Spartans pushed their lead to 18-7 just under seven minutes into the game. The Lyons trimmed York's advantage to five but York scored 10 of the next 13 points to take a 30-18 lead with 5:49 left in the half.
Wheaton outscored the Spartans 9-4 over the final five minutes of the half as York lead stood at 34-27 at the break.
The Spartans maintained their second half lead between six and 11 points over the first 13 minutes of the half. The Lyons went on a 9-0 run to cut the Spartan lead to just one at 48-47 with 4:40 remaining in regulation.
York got three free throws in their next two possessions to push the lead back to four. After the teams traded lay ups, Abbie Brickley hit a triple from the top of the key to cut the York lead back to one at 53-52. Junior Brittany Hicks (Dover, Pa./York Catholic) uncharacteristically missed a pair of free throws with 1:27 left, opening the door for the Lyons. However a Lauren McClelland turnover gave the ball back to York and junior Aja Wallpher (Ellicott City, Md./Seton Keough) was fouled. The Spartan point guard calmly sank both free throws to push the York lead to 55-52.
The Lyons didn't go away as Brickley hit a bucket in the paint with 43 seconds left to cut the York lead to one. Wheaton then forced a shot clock violation, giving them a chance to win with 10.6 seconds left. Wheaton called timeout with 5.5 seconds left to draw up a play. The Spartans had one foul to give and tried to foul but the Lyons drove the ball across the top of the arc to the left wing where a good defensive surge forced Vitagliano into a very tough game-winning attempt.
Hicks turned in another stellar performance for the Spartans as she led all scorers with 18 points while she also pulled in eight rebounds. Hicks was 6-for-13 from the floor while she was 6-for-10 from the stripe. Wallpher had a fantastic game for York with a season-high 14 points while she handed out seven assists and collected a season-high nine steals. Wallpher was 5-for-8 from the floor and a clutch 4-for-4 from the line.
Junior Kristen Haley (Silver Spring, Md./Georgetown Visitation) was the third Spartan in double figures with 10 points in her 25 minutes of work.
Brickley led a balanced Wheaton effort with 12 points. Kiley Shoemaker notched a double-double for the Lyons as she had 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Shoemaker got her points on a very efficient 3-for-5 from the field while she drilled 4-of-5 from the stripe. Kenzie Kuhn was the third Lyon in double figures with 10 points.
The Spartans shot 39.2% from the floor and a season-low 11.1% (1-for-9) from distance. The Spartans converted 14-of-20 (70%) from the stripe. The one three is their worst showing from downtown since February 19, 2011 when they went 1-for-12 in a 64-56 win over Salisbury.
Wheaton converted 36% of their shots from the floor but managed to bang home seven of their 19 from deep. The seven treys ties the Lyons' season high.
Wheaton held a significant 39-28 edge in total rebounds with 16 of those boards coming on the offensive end. That is the Spartans' largest rebounding deficit of the year and York has now gotten beaten on the glass in their last three straight games. Wheaton accumulated 20 second chance points in the game.
The Spartans forced 23 Wheaton turnovers in the game and they turned those Lyon miscues into 26 points.
The Spartans, who are ranked 11th in the USA Today Sports Coaches Poll and 12th in the D3hoops.com Poll, return to action on Sunday when they face a talented College of New Jersey squad in the tournament championship game at 3:00 pm. Wheaton will face the Apprentice School in the consolation game at 1:00 pm.