Sweet 16: Scranton, St. Thomas win thrillers

Bridgette Mann and Scranton battled through Christopher Newport's press at the Long Center on Friday night.
Photo by Tom Nettleton, d3photography.com

No. 9 Scranton rallied past Christopher Newport and No. 2 St. Thomas ended No. 6 Amherst's reign atop Division III women's basketball as all four hosts advanced through the Round of 16 in the 2019 NCAA Tournament.

After struggling against Christophter Newport's press in the first quarter, Scranton eventually calmed down and clamped down on the Captains in a dramatic 57-56 victory. Christopher Newport jumped out to a 15-6 lead at the end of one period and held that lead much of the game. With two minutes to play in the fourth quarter the Lady Royals went in front 57-52 on a Makenzie Mason turnaround hook shot in the lane followed by a Bridgette Mann three from the wing. The Captains called timeout and answered with four points to pull within one. In the final minute Scranton ran the clock down, missed a shot and then committed a foul on Zhara Tannor with 1.6 seconds left. Tannor missed both shots and Scranton salted the game away.

Mason and Mann led the way with a combined 35 points for Scranton. Freshman forward Natalie Terwilliger scored a career- and game-high 19 points for the Captains.

No. 2 St. Thomas ensured that Division III will have a new national champion, as the Tommies ousted Amherst 61-58 in overtime.

The Tommies nearly won the game in regulation before Amherst forced the extra period. Late in the fourth quarter St. Thomas ran down the shot clock and found Kaia Porter for a wide open basket that put the Tommies up 51-48 with under 30 seconds to play. Amherst missed a shot, grabbed the rebound and called timeout with less than two seconds left in regulation. After nearly committing a five-second violation, the Mammoths found Cam Hendricks for a game-tying three at the buzzer, sending the game to overtime.

In overtime the Tommies quickly regrouped and built a five-point lead, 57-52, on a deep three from Porter. Amherst answered with a three-point play from Madeline Eck. After the teams traded empty possessions, Eck missed a runner in the lane, but the Mammoths grabbed the offensive rebound and found Hannah Fox for a deep 3-pointer, putting Amherst in front, 58-57. Spaulding was fouled on St. Thomas' ensuing possession and made both free throws, putting the Tommies back in front, 59-58. Hendricks attempted another three on Amherst's next possession, but Lucia Renikoff blocked it and was fouled while recovering the loose ball. She made both free throws to push the Tommies' lead to 61-58.

"I didn't want that same shot to happen again," Renikoff said after the game. "It was definitely in my mind that they ran a similar play before for the same exact girl. We were more prepared this time so we were able to be a little more proactive and I was there earlier."

Amherst got one more look at another game-tying basket but Courtney Resch's three rattled off the rim and fell off.

The other two sectional hosts advanced with little drama. No. 2 Bowdoin outscored No. 25 SUNY New Paltz 48-23 in the second half in an 81-50 rout. Maddie Hasson rolled up 19 points and 13 rebounds for the Polar Bears who outrebounded the Hawks 56-34. Top-ranked Thomas More took the battle of Kentucky over No. 18 Transylvania 89-74. After starting slow in their first two games, the Saints jumped on the Pioneers 22-13 if the first period. Madison Temple led five TMU players in double figures with 21 points, 13 rebounds and six assists.  

Ithaca flipped a late eight-point deficit into a dramatic victory when Annie Giannone scored with six seconds left to lift the Bombers over No. 15 DeSales, 76-75. After Averi Jordan's three-pointer gave the Bulldogs a 71-63 lead with under four minutes to play, Ithaca answered back with a Cassidy O'Malley layup and Giannone three. Giannone hit another three with 1:10 left to pull the Bombers within one and then added two free throws on the Bombers' next possession, putting Ithaca up 74-73. After the teams traded empty possessions, Jordan scored on a layup with 11 seconds left, briefly giving DeSales the lead, before Giannone immediately answered with the game winner.

Giannone and O'Malley scored 19 points apiecer for the Ithaca while Jordan notched 11 points and 12 boards for DeSales.

No. 22 Washington U. allowed just 15 points in the middle two quarters against No. 12 Mary Hardin-Baylor and opened up a 21-point lead through three quarters on its way to a 63-46 victory. The Bears held the Crusaders to 30 percent shooting (17-for-57) overall and ASC West Player of the Year Hannah Holt to one made field goal in six attempts. Meanwhile Madeline Homoly finished two rebounds short of a double-double with 10 points and eight rebounds for the Bears.

"We locked in defensively and that was the difference," said Washington U. coach Randi Henderson. "The women are buying into playing defense and are frustrating other teams in what they do."

For the second season in a row, No. 4 Tufts stifled No. 7 Messiah in Scranton's gym, as the Falcons managed only 15 field goals in the Jumbos' 55-41 win. After a tight first quarter, Tufts opened up a four-point halftime lead on back-to-back three pointers from Cailin Harrington. The Jumbos used their speed, length and depth to hold Messiah's top scorer Alecia Rohrer to four points. Erica DeCandido posted a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) for the Jumbos who advanced to the sectional finals for the sixth year in a row.

Kaitlyn Volesky scored a team-high 14 points off the bench and Ally Conrad added 13 as No. 11 Wartburg defeated No. 13 UW-Oshkosh 70-57 in the round of 16 at St. Thomas. The Knights led by as many as 12 in the first half, as UW-Oshkosh was held to 3-for-16 shooting from beyond the arc. But it was a night in which the sophomore class shone for Wartburg, as the second-years scored 40 of Wartburg's 70 points. Leah Porath led the Titans (26-4) with 18 points off the bench, as she shot 8-for-12 from the floor. But the rest of the team was 15-for-47.

Tomorrow's sectional finals feature two rematches from the 2016 sectional finals (Thomas More/Washington U and Scranton/Tufts) and one rematch from earlier this year. St. Thomas' lone loss of the season came to Wartburg 60-40 back on Dec. 30. Bowdoin and Ithaca last faced each other in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.