SCRANTON - In an intense affair from the opening tap, junior Makenzie Mason (Doylestown, Pa./Central Bucks West) scored 18 points, and senior Bridgette Mann (Canadensis, Pa./Wallenpaupack) added 17 points and nailed what turned out to be the game-winning three-pointer with 2:06 left, as the ninth-ranked University of Scranton women's basketball team hung on late to defeat Christopher Newport, 57-56, on Friday night in a packed John Long Center in the Third Round of the 2019 NCAA Division III Tournament.
With the win, Scranton, now winners of nine games in a row, advances to the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016 and for the 15th time in program history.
The Lady Royals, who will play in their 100th all-time NCAA Tournament game on Saturday in the Quarterfinals, will take on a familiar foe - fourth-ranked Tufts - as the Jumbos bounced Messiah in the first Sectional Round game of the day Friday, 55-41.
To open the game on Friday night, however, the visiting Captains of CNU came out and shocked the host Lady Royals, as an effective press defense stifled Scranton for the first 10 minutes, leading to a 15-6 Christopher Newport lead after the first quarter.
CNU continued to take it to Scranton throughout the second quarter and opened their second biggest lead of the night with 3:53 left in the first half at 23-13. Here, the Lady Royals began to finally figure out the CNU press and went on a quick 8-0 scoring run to slice the Captains lead down to 23-21.
But, that was the closest Scranton came to the CNU lead the rest of the period, as CNU nailed a three after Scranton cut the lead to two and took a 28-24 edge into intermission.
The intensity turned up even more in the third quarter, with Scranton making run after run at the CNU lead. But, the Captains held firm and did not give up their edge the entire quarter, as the closest the Lady Royals came to the CNU lead was one point (41-40 with 2:12 left). CNU was able to score the final three points of the period and with it led 44-40 entering the fourth.
In the final stanza, Scranton came out and finally conquered the deficit they had faced since the first quarter, as a pair of buckets by junior Emily Sheehan (Dunmore, Pa./Dunmore) and sophomore Taylor Rodriguez (Wayne, N.J./Wayne Hills) tied the game up at 44-44. Rodriguez, who was fouled on her lay-in, then made a free throw to convert a three-point play, giving Scranton their first lead since 6-3 edge early in the first quarter at 45-44.
Over the next few minutes, the lead swung back and forth, with the game being tied on three separate occasions in a four-minute span, with action finally coming to a head with 3:01 left, tied at 52-all after CNU made two free throws.
Here, the Lady Royals cashed in on back-to-back possessions that ultimately won them the game. First, Mason nailed a jumper in the lane with 2:48 left to give Scranton a 54-52 lead. Then, after making a defensive stop, Mann got open and nailed a massive three-pointer with 2:06 left to give Scranton a 57-52 lead.
But, Christopher Newport didn't give up, as they made a lay-up with 1:47 left to make it a three-point game (57-54), then forced a Scranton miss. After a Lady Royals foul, CNU hit two free throws, making it a 57-56 game with 57 seconds left.
On the ensuing possession for Scranton, the Lady Royals first forced a CNU foul with 33 seconds left. Then, Scranton held on to the ball but missed a shot with three seconds remaining. Unfortunately for Scranton, they committed a foul on the chase for a loose ball rebound, sending CNU's Zhara Tannor to the free throw line for two shots and a chance to give the Captains the lead back.
But, fortunately for Scranton, Tannor missed not one, but both free throws, then collected a defensive rebound with one second left. Only needing to inbound successfully to win the game, the Lady Royals did just that to survive and take a thrilling win.
Overall, Mason shined once again in a big spot for Scranton, scoring 18 points, while pulling down 10 rebounds to record her 10th double-double of the season. Mason, who scored in double-figures for the 24th time on the season, also had three assists, three blocks and two steals in the victory.
Mann, meanwhile, came up big all evening when the Lady Royals needed a spark, as she nailed four three-pointers in her 17-point evening. Mann also dished out five assists in the victory. Elsewhere, Rodriguez once again ignited the rally for Scranton off the bench, scoring nine points, and junior Sofia Recupero (Whitestone, N.Y./Saint Francis Prep) also ended with nine points and a game-high eight assists.
CNU was led in the tough loss by Natalie Terwilliger, who scored 19 points off the Captains bench.
Scranton now sets their sights on tomorrow's Quarterfinal bout with perennial power Tufts, who is now also 28-2 on the year. The match-up will be the third in the last four seasons between the Lady Royals and Jumbos, with Tufts knocking Scranton out of the NCAA Tournament in both 2016 (in the Quarters, 57-48) and 2017 (in the Third Round, 65-48).
Tufts was led in their win over Messiah by Erica DeCandido, who had 15 points.
Fans coming to the Long Center for tomorrow's game are reminded that gates will open at 4:45 p.m., with tip-off set for 6 p.m.