CHAMPIONS! CNU Women's Basketball Wins 2019 CAC Title With 83-67 Victory Over #2 Southern Virginia

More news about: Christopher Newport

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- For the first time in the 47-year history of Christopher Newport women's basketball, the Captains are returning to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive season. With an 83-67 win at home over second-seeded Southern Virginia University, the Captains (23-5) won the 2019 Capital Athletic Conference Championship and earned the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.

The senior class of Jessica Daguilh, Madison Howdyshell, and Zhara Tannor represent the first group to reach the postseason tournament in each of their four playing seasons after improving to 101-18 for a winning percentage of nearly 85%. It's the most wins for a class since the senior class of 2014 hauled in 105 career victories. 

It is the second CAC Championship in six years as members of the league and the 12th conference title in program history. The league title is the second under the direction of head coach Bill Broderick, who has guided the Captains to the NCAA Tournament in six of his seven seasons at the helm. 

Christopher Newport won the championship game by leading wire-to-wire over the Knights, who fall to 21-6 overall and will have to wait to see if they've earned an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament. The Division III Women's Basketball Championship Bracket will be announced on Monday, February 25 at 2:30 pm in a live selection show on 

In the win, junior Kiana Kirkland matched her career-high with 23 points to lead all scorers while three CNU players finished in double figures. Senior Zhara Tannor added 16 points and 4 steals while rookie Sondra Fan also finished in double figures with 15 points and 5 rebounds. 

On the other side, sophomore Katie Garrish nearly posted a triple-double as she led the Knights in their first ever CAC Championship appearance. Garrish scored 22 points, hauled in 22 rebounds, and blocked 8 shots. 

Sondra Fan kickstarted an 11-2 run to open the game when she took the opening tip straight to the basket and converted a three-point play to put the Captains ahead just four seconds into the contest. CNU never relinquished the lead as Kirkland, Jessica Daguilh, and Tannor all went 2-for-2 from the free-throw line in the game-opening run. Jasmine Norman also added a fast-break layup on a nifty assist by Tannor after Tannor picked up one of her four steals. 

Southern Virginia cut the lead to three on a triple by Amanda Wood with 5:14 left in the first quarter, but the Captains responded to take a 17-point edge in the final minute of the opening quarter, 28-11, on another big run. CNU scored 17 of the next 20 points as Kirkland took the reins and scored 10 points in the opening quarter. The Captains recorded seven steals on nine Southern Virginia turnovers while holding the Knights to just 29.4% shooting (5-17) in the first ten minutes of action. 

The second-seeded Knights recovered to outscore the Captains in the second stanza by one, 24-23, but CNU carried a 51-38 advantage into the locker room courtesy of a strong first half both offensively and defensively. As a team, the Captains shot nearly 46% (17-37) while forcing 12 turnovers. 

After sustaining early pressure by the Knights in the third quarter, the Captains methodically added to their lead by the end of the frame to take a 24-point lead, 70-46. Three-point shooting in key moments was back-breaking for Southern Virginia, including as the buzzer sounded at the end of the third quarter when Tannor connected on a three-pointer off a pass by Fan. 

The lead would grow to as many as 26 in the game, as late as 4:38 remaining when Jessica Foster buried a triple in the corner off a feed from fellow freshman Phylicia McInnis to make it 81-55. Southern Virginia scored 12 of the last 14 points, but CNU coasted to the win to capture the conference championship. 

On the glass, Southern Virginia won the battle 48-43, but CNU did an exceptional job on the offensive glass with 19 rebounds. Howdyshell grabbed a team-high nine rebounds while rookie Natalie Terwilliger also hauled in eight. Julia Hobbs registered one of her finest performances as a Captain with four points, five rebounds, and a pair of blocks in 18 minutes of action.

The Captains earned the title with just six returning players in 2018-19, as an influx of ten talented rookies made up the rest of the CNU roster. Sondra Fan was named the CAC Rookie of the Year and seven of those freshmen averaged at least 8.5 minutes per game this season.