Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Sunday, September 23, 2018

Women’s basketball clinches Patriot League title

The Eagles punch ticket to NCAA tournament

Women’s basketball clinches Patriot League title

The Eagles lift their trophy in Bender Arena Sunday after securing the Patriot League title and a spot in the NCAA tournament.

The Eagles are going dancing.

Women’s basketball defeated Navy 58-49 Sunday, clinching the Patriot League championship and securing a spot in the NCAA tournament.

This will be the second NCAA tournament appearance in four years for the Eagles, whose seniors were rookies last time the team danced in the tournament. It’s also another prize for a team that has racked up gold stars all season, including awards for Patriot League Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

The Eagles will discover their first tournament opponent during the NCAA Selection Show, airing Monday at 7 p.m.

“I am so proud of everyone on this team,” junior forward Cecily Carl said. “One through 14, we all put so much work and time into getting here. Now, we get to reap that reward.”

The conquest lifted the team’s victory total to 26-6 and continued their undefeated home court win streak to 16-0.

“[The NCAA] Tournament is such a fun experience, and I’m looking forward to getting to live it through these guys,” head coach Megan Gebbia said following the win. “It’s all about matchups and where you go, so we’ll see. I don’t put anything past this team, that’s for sure. They’ll be prepared and ready. I think it just depends on the seed and the matchup.”

Carl earned the title of Patriot League Tournament Most Valuable Player after the game. She scored 20 points and made 8 rebounds.

“Cecily is just an amazing player,” said senior guard Emily Kinneston. “I think next year is going to be a really good year for her. This year, it has been so fun to work with her and distribute the ball to her when I can. She’s well deserving of [the MVP award], well deserving.”

Kinneston, the Patriot League Player of the Year and Scholar-Athlete of the Year, did not have her usual high-scoring game. She led the team with 9 assists and scored 14 points.

“I’m able to say now that Emily Kinneston is the most talented player I’ve ever played with,” Carl said. “She should have been tournament MVP, I firmly believe that, but she's been playing so well this year and obviously it shows. She got Patriot League Player of the Year, and she was so deserving of that. Playing with her has been really special.”

This championship game was arguably one of junior guard Kaitlyn Lewis’s best games of the season. She played for 17 minutes and scored 7 points. Her energy made her hard to block, and her defense prevented a tighter point gap throughout each quarter.

“We were fueled all week [for this championship],” Lewis said. “We played Navy twice already this season, both games were tough battles. We battled it out both here and there, and we knew neither team was going to let out. We were really prepared and ready to fight today.”

Navy loses in second consecutive Patriot League championship appearance

Navy’s head coach Stefanie Pemper mourned the loss with senior guards Hannah Fenske and Taylor Dunham in their post-game press conference. Both Fenske and Dunham were tough challenges for the Eagles, specifically on offense.

This season, Navy and AU battled one another in Washington and Maryland. In Bender on Jan. 5, AU won 46-41. In Maryland on Feb. 28, Navy won 76-49.

“AU did a really nice job defensively,” Pemper said. “They clogged our lanes. We also weren’t able to get the day we needed offensively.”

Dunham scored 14 points, and 9 of those were from first quarter 3-point jump shots, which concluded the first quarter 14-8 in Navy’s favor. Fenske scored 8 points total, the third-most on the team. Fenske had 5 assists, and Dunham had 4.

Dunham said, “They made some plays, we didn’t make some plays. To win a championship, you have to make big plays.” Fenske agreed.

Victor's families celebrate win

Jeanne Liddane, Maria Liddane’s mother, traveled to Bender from Grosse Pointe, Michigan for the championship game. She flew in for Monday’s quarterfinal game against Lafayette and returned home after the team’s win. She caught another flight Saturday night in time for the Sunday showdown.

“We always tell our kids ‘we gave you bee brains, everything else is all you,’” Jeanne Liddane said with a laugh on the court after the win.

Her husband, Michael Liddane, agreed; “Maria is proof positive of the additive that talent skips generations,” he said.

Jeanne put a hand on Michael’s shoulder as the two let out a belly laugh, celebrating their daughter’s victory.

Teresa Sanders, freshman guard Indeya Sanders’ mom, gushed over her daughter with tears in her eyes.

“As a freshman, she hasn't been used to not playing, but she's very appreciative of all this because she knows her time is coming,” Teresa Sanders said. “So, she just wants to support her upperclassmen and be a part of the celebration.”

This story has been updated.

kcataudella@theeagleonline.com


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