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Friday, June 21, 2024
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Eagles fall in final game

The AU Women's Basketball team came tantalizingly close to its first NCAA tournament appearance, but lost 71-60 to Colgate last Wednesday, ending their season in the Patriot League Championship game.

"There wasn't a time when I didn't think the outcome would be different tonight," said Eagles head coach Shann Hart. "But we got out-hustled, out-worked and out-rebounded."

The Eagles got to the championship game with an 85-73 victory over the Navy Midshipmen in the first round, and by defeating the Lehigh Mountain Hawks 71-58 in the league semifinals last Sunday.

Against Colgate, the Eagles got off to a slow start, falling behind 4-0 in the first three minutes. A jumper by junior guard Joanna Barnes opened the scoring for AU with 16:46 remaining in the first half.

A 10-0 run by Colgate midway through the half widened its lead to 24-11, but the Eagles answered and ended the half on an 8-0 run of their own, highlighted by Barnes' buzzer-beating three-pointer to close the halftime gap to 36-31.

The Raiders tried to put AU away early in the second half, opening up a 53-41 lead with 12 minutes left in the game. But AU's junior forward Chanel Hunt made two jumpers to key an 8-0 run that brought AU back to within four.

Then tournament Most Valuable Player Malissa Burke took over for the Raiders. The senior scored eight points in the final eight minutes, finishing the night with 23. She was complemented by junior forward Milaina Lagzdins, who scored 10 points and pulled down 14 rebounds to join Burke on the All-Tournament team.

"This is why we play basketball and going to the NCAA tournament has always been a dream for me, for it to happen in my last game at Colgate is just awesome," Burke said.

AU pulled to within four points with 1:15 remaining on two free throws by senior Chanel Spriggs. However, it could not convert on its next two possessions, misses by Hunt and junior forward Jenyce Woodruff.

Hunt led the Eagles with 15 points, while Barnes chipped in with 13. A problem for the Eagles was the lack of scoring from their seniors. While Kaitlyn Schuyler scored 10 points, Spriggs and senior Angel McNatt, who had been AU's most consistent scorers throughout the tournament, combined for only eight points.

"The seniors didn't play their best game tonight offensively and that hurt us on that end of the floor," Hart said.

Even though AU didn't win the league championship, it marked the first time it appeared in the game. This can only be attributed to its two sparkling performances last weekend at Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md.

AU beat the Mountain Hawks, 71-58, on Sunday, avenging an early-season loss. It used a 10-1 run to end the first half and break open a close game. After McNatt's last-second three-pointer, the Eagles went to the locker room with a 36-22 lead.

The Eagles contained Lehigh's star point guard Dawn Gorynski, holding her to seven points and no assists. As a team, the Hawks only had five assists and committed 29 turnovers.

Lehigh's stud freshman, Sara Ellis, who burned the Eagles with 19 points and four three-pointers in Lehigh's victory at Bender Arena, was held to only seven points, 0-for-4 shooting from downtown.

"The defensive intensity tonight was incredible," Hart said. "It's nice to see the girls buying into the defensive philosophy."

AU was led by Schuyler and Barnes, who scored 13 apiece. After shooting 0 for 6 in the first half, Schuyler hit five second-half shots, including three big three-pointers to close the game for the Eagles.

Spriggs chipped in with 12 points and Hunt netted 10. Jessica DePalo led Lehigh with 22 points.

While Spriggs, Hunt and Barnes played well over the weekend, the MVP for the Eagles may have been Hart, who managed the games with several players in foul trouble work in reserves Woodruff and McNatt efficiently.

Hart's mastery included using five players with four fouls against Navy - and none of them fouled out.

"This weekend was just about the players, who played out of their mind against Lehigh and very competitively against Navy," Hart said.

Against the Middies, AU used a solid overall game from McNatt to move on. Spriggs picked up her second foul seven minutes into the game, and McNatt replaced her and allowed Spriggs to sit out the final 13 minutes of the half.

In the second half, Spriggs scored 16 points and Hunt hit 11 of 13 free throws to end the game with 15 points and eight rebounds.

The Eagles' balanced scoring attack featured six players in double figures, led by Hunt and Spriggs. McNatt scored 14, and Barnes and junior center Kim Salem hit for 13. Schuyler chipped in with 10.

Even though they came up short, Hunt and Barnes were honored as part of the All-Tournament team, joining victors Burke and Lagzdins of Colgate, Jessica DePalo of Lehigh, and Desire Almind of Bucknell.

And so ends another season of AU Women's Basketball. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be the breakthrough season for AU hoops ended one game short.

As the semester comes to an end and one of the founding members leaves American University, Section 202 has decided to take a trip down memory lane. For our fans, old and new, who are wondering how Section 202 came to be, this episode is a must. Listen along as hosts Connor Sturniolo and Liah Argiropoulos reminisce about the beginning of Section 202 and how it got to where it is now.

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