CMU Women Advance to HAAC Championship with OT Win
ATCHISON, KS. -- Britney Joseph entered Ralph Nolan Gymnasium with a focus. The junior forward took that energy to the court with a double-double (10 points and 15 rebounds), and Central Methodist finally conquered No. 12 Benedictine (Kan.) 78-70 in overtime in the Heart of America Athletic Conference Women's Basketball Tournament Semifinals.
The Eagles win their fourth straight while ending the Lady Ravens' five-game win streak.
The Eagles (25-6), the tournament's three-seed, advance to the HAAC Tournament Championship game for the first time since 1997-98 and will face for the third time this season the tournament's top seed and No. 9 nationally ranked MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) on Tuesday, March 5, in Olathe, Kan. Central Methodist and the Pioneers split two games in the regular season, with each team winning on the other's court.
Saturday's win might have sewn up an at-large berth for the Eagles to the NAIA Women's Basketball D-I National Championship. A win Tuesday would make the bid to the big dance automatic.
Eagle coach James Arnold earned his first win against the Lady Ravens (27-5). The two-seed in this year's tournament, Benedictine was the only HAAC team the second year coach had yet to defeat.
Central Methodist, which was 6-of-14 from outside the arc, improved to 20-2 this season when connecting on at least five three-pointers in a game. Benedictine had allowed fewer than 60 points in 13 of its last 15 games entering Saturday.
Both teams started the game sluggish. The Lady Ravens started the first eight minutes 2-of-10 from the field, while the Eagles were 3-of-9. Britney Joseph scored the first four points for the Eagles on running layups in the paint, making the score 4-3 through four minutes. Joseph also had the three rebounds and one block for the Green and Black during the time. Sammie Gathercole's first trey seven minutes in gave the visitors an 8-5 advantage.
Benedictine answered with a 7-0 run, as Katie Barr's fastbreak layup gave the home team a four-point upper hand midway through the half.
Both teams then began to deploy a fullcourt press. Raylyn Nuss's first 3-pointer cut the Central Methodist deficit to one at the 10:04 mark.
The Eagles began to seize first-half momentum at the 8:25 mark when the Lady Ravens' Justice Payne picked up her second foul. After making the first three of the game, the junior was held to 1-of-5 from distance the rest of the half. Meanwhile, the Eagles' Kyra Williams found Taylor Cornelison in the paint to tie the game at 15 before Towanda Sutton drew a charge on Kelsey Anselmi.
An over-and-back call on the Lady Ravens turned into a Sutton bucket in the paint, putting the Green and Black up 21-15 at the 4:59 mark. The margin swelled to double digits, 25-15, on a Williams' isolation take in the paint. Central Methodist built an 13-point edge, 29-16, at the two minute mark following a Cornelison layup.
Erin Murphy brought Benedictine within single digits, 29-21, on a 3-pointer, but Central Methodist led 29-23 at halftime. The Lady Ravens struggled from the floor in the first 20 minutes against the league's top defense, hitting only 25.5 percent (8-of-34).
Murphy opened the second period with a trey, but the Eagles answered the next trip down the court with two offensive rebounds and a putback by Williams.
After being held scoreless in the second half on Feb. 16 in Fayette, Payne hit back-to-back treys to tie the game at 31, but Brooke Paulsell answered with a bucket from distance on the next possession to give Central Methodist another three-point lead.
Jasmine Poteete gave the Green and Black a nine-point cushion with an offensive rebound and bucket in the paint at the 13 minute mark. A Nuss three followed by a Sutton jumper made the score 47-35 in favor of the Eagles two minutes later.
Payne brought the Lady Crusaders within nine at 53-44 with her fourth shot from outside on the night at the nine minute mark. Anselmi then canned a trey 40 seconds later on Benedictine's next possession that made the difference six.
The Lady Crusaders looked to cut the deficit to possibly one possession, but Joseph made two stands defensively, coming up with a steal and defensive rebound before Poteete got fouled, putting the Eagles in the bonus for the final 7:01 of regulation. Poteete hit the front end of the bonus to make the score 54-47.
Rosie Youngstrom brought Benedictine within two points at 55-53, but Joseph picked up a steal and fastbreak layup with 4:43 on the clock to stretch the difference back to two possessions.
Murphy tied the game at 59 with a layup at the one minute mark. After a missed jumper, Williams hit a running bank shot as time expired, but the basket was waved off, and the game went into overtime.
After struggling in two regular-season overtime losses, Central Methodist took control early in the extra session Saturday. Joseph opened the extra period with a strong take to the basket, putting the visitors ahead 61-59. The difference then went to two possessions after a Gathercole jumper in the paint. Gathercole then nailed a trey to put the Eagles before the difference went to eight, 69-61, with two minutes left.
Benedictine would not go away. Payne hit a 26-foot three with 56.5 seconds on the clock to cut her team's deficit to six points, 72-66, but Williams made 11 of her game-high 13 free throws in overtime to seal the win.
Williams led all scorers with a career-high 19 points and six rebounds.
Nuss, Sutton and Gathercole tallied 11 points apiece. Poteete had nine points and seven rebounds, as Central Methodist outrebounded Benedictine 54-41.
Payne led Benedictine offensively with 17 points on five made 3-pointers and 6-of-14 shooting from the floor. Murphy finished with a double-double (13 points and 10 rebounds). Jackie Ziesel had 12 points and seven rebounds. Anselmi had 10 points and five rebounds but fouled out in overtime.
Central Methodist shot 41.7 percent (25-of-60) overall and 22-of-34 from the free throw line. Benedictine was 35.1 percent (26-of-74) from the field but only 9-of-16 from the charity stripe.