Sweet 16: Fantastic four advances

St. Thomas celebrates a critical basket that kept Hope at bay in the teams' sectional semifinal game.
Photo by Jake Remes, St. Thomas

The four teams that entered the NCAA tournament undefeated will stay that way for one more night. They join the defending national champions and three other teams that have four losses combined in the Elite 8.

No. 1 Thomas More outscored No. 8 Washington U. 103-90 in front of an energized crowd at the Connor Center. The Saints grabbed the lead behind Sydney Moss' red-hot start, as the All-American scored 18 points on 7-for-8 shooting in the first five minutes of the game.

Once Moss cooled off and Washington U. settled in, the Bears closed the gap on the Saints behind their own torrid shooting. Maddy Scheppers scored 24 points on 9-for-18 shooting and Alyssa Johanson added 19 points and 13 rebounds.

Thomas More led Washington U. 69-62 midway through the second half when Moss picked up her fourth foul and came out of the game. Sephanie Vukotic scored a layup to pull the Bears within three, but the Saints answered with a 12-4 run, including a five-point play. Abby Owings came off a screen by Sydni Wainscott and hit a three-pointer as Wainscott was fouled. She made both free throws to complete the five point play. Thomas More outscored Wash U by 1 over that key eight minute stretch while Moss sat with four fouls.

Wainscott led the Saints with 22 points in 36 minutes, including 7-for-7 from the free throw line. Olivia Huber scored 10 points off the Saints' bench on 5-for-5 shooting and Moss finished with 37 points and nine rebounds in 31 minutes.

Thomas More will face fellow unbeaten and second-ranked St. Thomas in the sectional final. The Tommies overcame two injuries and a tough Hope defense to advance to the Elite 8 with a 55-47 victory. The Tommies lost reserve guard Hannah Hughes and starting center Maggie Weiers to knee injuries within a couple minutes’ span during the first half. But St. Thomas held the Flying Dutch to 19 percent shooting in the first half (5-for-27) and led 22-13 at the break.

The Tommies maintained a double-digit lead for most of the second half. Katie Stone hit three of her four 3-pointers after the break and Jenna Dockter tallied 19 points and six rebounds. Rebekah Llorens led Hope with 11 points and 12 rebounds.

Kayla Engelhard and Calvin ran past DePauw on their way to a showdown with fellow unbeaten George Fox.
Photo by Robert Youngs, Jr., d3photography.com

Calvin, George Fox also stay perfect

No. 3 George Fox survived a scare from No. 24 Texas-Dallas 77-73 in the first game at Calvin's sectional.  With the game tied at 65 late in the second half, Justine Benner made layups in back-to-back George Fox possessions to put the Bruins up four. The Comets pulled back within one with 42 seconds remaining. On George Fox's next possession, Lauren Codling got fouled while grabbing an offensive rebound and sank both free throws to push the lead back to three. Texas-Dallas turned the ball over and the Bruins added one more free throw to seal the win.

Codling filled the box score with 13 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and seven blocks. Madison Steele led the Comets with 14 points off the bench.

Four Calvin starters scored double-figures and the sixth ranked Knights defeated No. 9 DePauw 71-62. After the teams traded leads for much of the first half, Calvin used a 14-4 run to give itself a seven-point half time advantage. The Knights built a 14-point lead before the Tigers rallied within six with under three minutes to play. Kayla Engelhard and Breanna Verkaik made 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch to fend off DePauw.

Engelhard finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds while Hannah Acre added 18 and 11 for Calvin. Savannah Trees scored 21 in her final game for DePauw.

Kyra and twin sister Kara Dayon were double trouble for Geneseo State on Friday night
FDU-Florham athletics photo

Unstoppable force, meet unmovable object

High-scoring FDU-Florham and ultra-stingy Tufts will play for a spot in the Final Four after winning their sectional semifinal games on Friday night.

If No. 4 FDU-Florham was angry about not getting to host this weekend, the Devils took out their frustration on Geneseo State. FDU-Florham scored the first eight points of the game, built a 28-point halftime advantage and eased to a 68-54 victory. The Devils converted 22 Geneseo turnovers into 27 points. Twins Kyra and Kara Dayon combined for 34 points for FDU while Shannon McGinnis had a double-double for Geneseo (20 points, 16 rebounds).

No. 5 Tufts had a stellar defensive performance, even by its stingy standards. The Jumbos held Eastern Connecticut 32 points below its season scoring average in a 46-31 Tufts victory. The Warriors shot 23 percent (8-for-35) and had just two field goals in the first half. Michela North posted 15 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks for the Jumbos.

The Devils entered the weekend with the fourth ranked offense in the country (84.6 points per game), behind only quick-shooting System teams North Central (Ill.) and Knox and top-ranked Thomas More. Tufts surrenders the fewest points in the country (47.1 ppg).

FDU-Florham defeated Tufts 42-39 in the national semifinals last season.

Sarah Seipp keyed Salisbury's game-winning run with strong play at both ends of the court.
Photo by Salisbury athletics

Sea Gulls, Red Hawks flock to reunion

Montclair State and Salisbury dispatched their NESCAC sectional semifinal foes, setting up a rematch of their early January battle.

No. 11 Salisbury topped No. 12 Amherst 63-58 to secure its first trip to the Elite 8. After Amherst used a 14-0 run to grab a 33-25 halftime lead, the Sea Gulls grabbed the lead back with an 11-0 second half run. The teams battled back and forth until Salisbury guard Sarah Seipp keyed a 6-0 spurt with an assist, layup off her own steal, and jumper to put the Sea Gulls up to stay.

Salisbury's senior backcourt of Seipp and Anna Hackett combined for 45 points. Amherst's Megan Robertson finished her career with a 16-point, 14-rebound performance.

In a game similar to Montclair State's win over Stevenson last Saturday, the Red Hawks built a comfortable lead against Bowdoin and then held on for a closer victory, 61-54. Montclair led by as many as 17 points, only to have Bowdoin close to within four in the closing minutes. Sage Bennett grabbed a critical offensive rebound off a missed Bowdoin free throw and the Red Hawks made enough free throws down the stretch to secure a return to the sectional finals.

Montclair All-American Melissa Tobie notched a strange double-double with 17 rebounds and 10 points, despite 1-for-17 shooting from the field. Bowdoin, which led its conference in foul shooting, was just 9-for-17 from the free throw line. Janitza Aquino led Montclair with 17 points while Sarah Binkhorst capped a strong season with 15 points.

The matchup between Montclair State and Salisbury guarantees that at least one team will make its first trip to the national semifinals next weekend. Calvin and Thomas More are also looking for their first trip to the Final Four.