Women's championship Saturday

Katy Stears and Trine had to work extra hard to earn the MIAA's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
File photo by MIAA athletics

The Great Lakes Region produced three thrilling title games with each one finishing more dramatically than the last. Upsets on each coast burst someone else's bubble and six programs punched their first ever ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

On Saturday afternoon John Carroll earned its first OAC conference title when Shmoo Pryor splashed home a three-pointer with one second left to beat Ohio Northern, 61-58. The Polar Bears, who reached the title game as the seventh-seed, tied the game on their previous possession when Jenna Dirksen drove through the Blue Streaks defense for a tough layup. John Carroll called time out and initially tried to get a basket inside, and then passed the ball around the perimter where Parker hit the game-winner. Parker finished with 17 points and four 3-pointers after making 20 threes the rest of the season combined. 

A couple hours later No. 20 Transylvania edged Rose-Hulman 63-61 in the HCAC championship when Shelby Boyle found Kristen Hayes for a layup with one second remaining. The Pioneers scored twice in the final minute against the Engineers' stingy defense. Boyle finished with eight points, nine rebounds, five assists and five steals for Transylvania.

A couple hours after that, No. 5 Trine outlasted No. 10 Hope 70-65 in double-overtime to complete a three-game sweep of the Flying Dutch and an undefeated run through the MIAA schedule. Both teams struggled to score in the first extra period, managing just one made field goal and four free throws between the two of them. Trine found its stride in the second overtime and Montana Martin scored four points in the final 17 seconds to seal the Thunder's victory.

Pomona-Pitzer shot 14 for 16 from the foul line and grabbed the SCIAC's automatic bid by knocking off Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 60-57. The Sagehens' victory will pop someone's bubble, perhaps Claremont's, as the Athenas will likely sit third in line for an at-large bid in the West Region.

Earlier in the day Emmanuel denied No. 8 St. Joseph's (Maine) a conference title and denied some other team a spot in the NCAA Tournament, as the Saints upset the previously-unbeaten Monks in the GNAC title game, 65-64. Playing in front of a packed gymnasium, St. Joseph's took the lead when Kelsi McNamara fed Emily Benway for a layup with 23 seconds left. Emmanuel raced up the court and got the ball to Maddie McLaughlin who was fouled driving to the rim. She made both free throws, giving the Saints the lead. The Monks called time out and tried to get the ball to McNamara, but Kayla Weaver stole the ball away and essentially ran out the clock.

The other two undefeated teams remained that way. No. 1 Bowdoin took care of Middlebury 84-58 in its half of the NESCAC semifinals. The Polar Bears will face the winner of No. 6 Tufts in Sunday's final. The Jumbos edged No. 4 Amherst 47-46 on freshman Jannette Wadolowski's jumper with 1.8 seconds left. No. 2 Thomas More roughed up Alfred State 106-56 in the American Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) tournament, earning Jeff Hans his 200th victory. The ACAA only sponsors a four-team tournament with no regular season schedule since its teams are spread across the Division III landscape.

Marymount couldn't win an automatic bid because the newly-formed Atlantic East Conference has two wait two seasons before it has one. But the Saints made a good case to grab one of the at-large bids by beating Cabrini 77-68 in the innaugural AEC tournament.With losses by Misericordia and Mount St. Mary, Marymount has a chance to move up to second in the Atlantic Region rankings behind AQ-winner DeSales. 

Two other sets of Saints wrapped up their automatic bids on Saturday afternoon. No. 3 St. Thomas won yet another MIAC title behind yet another double-double for All-American Hannah Spaulding. She posted 25 points and 17 rebounds in the Tommies' 73-54 win over No. 24 Augsburg. St. Thomas has won the last eight MIAC tournaments. St. Vincent broke out to a 38-17 halftime lead and cruised to the PAC title 70-48. The Bearcats shot 8-for-18 from three.

Recap continues after the photo

Western New England celebrates its first CCC title after beating Endicott on Saturday afternoon.
Photo by Mike Conners

Next weekend's Big Dance will have at least six new programs when it begins on Friday.

After splitting the regular season series with Whitman, No. 11 George Fox won the rubber match and the NWC's automatic bid, beating the Blues 66-52. The Bruins led for most of the game and outscored Whitman 21-0 from behind the arc.

No. 18 Texas-Dallas won its 15th straight game and took home the ASC title with a 63-58 win at No. 9 Mary Hardin-Baylor. The Comets shot 20 for 22 from the foul line and outrebounded the Crusaders 47-30. Mary Hardin-Baylor, which sat atop the South Region rankings this week, is a lock for one of the at-large bids.

No. 17 Illinois Wesleyan turned 20 Wheaton (Ill.) turnovers into 24 points and held off the 21st-ranked Thunder 69-68 in the CCIW tournament final. The Titans grabbed the lead with a 12-2 run midway through the fourth quarter and held on to win, despite scoring just three points in the game's final three minutes. Hannah Frazier scored 25 points in losing effort for the Thunder, who are almost certaint to receive an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.

The American Rivers Conference has a new name but the same champion. No. 13 Wartburg outscored Loras 25-6 in the fourth quarter and rallied past the Duhawks 73-61. The Knights shot 55 percent (6-for-11) from the field, including four 3-pointers, and 9 for 10 from the foul line in the final period. Adrienne Boettger finished with 19 points and seven rebounds for the Knights who have won three straight conference titles.

The third time was not the charm for SUNY Geneseo as SUNY New Paltz beat the Knights again, this time by a count of 63-57 in overtime. Rachel Simon led the Hawks with 22 points. McKenna Brooks had 15 points and 12 rebounds for Geneseo but fouled out after only 24 minutes. In the Centennial Conference Haverford routed Gettysburg 62-40 as the Fords held the Bullets to 24 points after the first quarter. Macy Goldbach scored 22 points and shot 4 for 9 from three for Haverford.

Recap continues after the photo

Like a lot of other NCAC teams, Denison did not have much space to work against the DePauw defense on Saturday.
Photo by the North Coast Athletic Conference

No. 19 DePauw repelled Denison's fourth-quarter comeback attempt and the Tigers won their sixth NCAC title in eight seasons, 61-50. DePauw led for the entire game, but the Big Red pulled within one point, 46-45, midway through the fourth quarter. The Tigers responded with a 10-1 run, keyed by six points and an assist from Maya Howard, and put the game away.

No. 15 DeSales finished its romp through the MAC Freedom with a 75-59 win at home over Misericordia. Conference MVP Morgan Birmelin racked up 19 points, eight assists and five steals for the Bulldogs who should be in good shape to host a pod in next weekend's NCAA Tournament. Messiah did the same in the MAC Commonwealth, as Maci Thornton followed up her MVP award with 23 points in the Falcons' 53-46 win over Lycoming.

Christopher Newport won the new-look CAC in impressive fashion as the Captains rolled up a 24-point lead after three periods en route to a 83-67 victory over Southern Virginia. The Captains hit 12 three-pointers, led by five from Kiana Kirkland who had 23 points. Katie Garrish posted 22 points and 22 rebounds for the Knights.

Mass-Dartmouth faces another painful wait for the NCAA Tournament bracket release. The Corsairs, which were left out of the Tournament last year, fell to Eastern Connecticut 77-72 in overtime. Mass-Dartmouth had all three starting front court players foul out and the Warriors got double-doubles from Mya Villard (27 points, 17 rebounds) and Anna Barry (18 points, 10 rebounds).

In other Saturday championship results: