The California University of Pennsylvania women’s basketball team is going to the final four after beating the Nova Southeastern Sharks 84-79 in overtime on Tuesday.
The Lady Vulcans had their hands full with the Nova Southeastern Sharks in the elite eight round. The game was a back-and-forth affair, with neither team being able to seize much of an advantage throughout. The teams were tied at the end of the first half, and remained square after 40 minutes of basketball, taking the play to overtime.
Senior Emmy Mahady sealed the game for California with a steal and a layup with three second left in overtime. She was by far the Vulcans’ most consistent offensive threat, scoring 24 points while shooting 10-of-18 from the field. She also chipped in with 4 3-pointers.
Cal U opened play with an 8-2 advantage, but towards the middle of the first half, the Sharks used a 13-4 run to take a 23-19 lead. The teams went into halftime tied at 42-42, and that four-point advantage would be the largest lead until 7:22 remained in the second half, as the teams matched baskets.
Late in the second half, Cal took advantage when the Sharks’ shooting went cold. Nova Southeastern missed nine straight shots and the Vulcans went on a 15-5 run to turn a 56-54 deficit into a 69-61 lead with just 5:22 left to play.
The Sharks came right back with a 9-2 run of their own and Monaye Merritt made a pair of free throws with 11 seconds left in the second half to even the score at 72. She then got the steal defensively to stop the Vulcans on a potentially game-winning possession and send the game into overtime.
Merritt, a redshirt junior from Philadelphia, and senior Danielle Robinson made up the backcourt for the Sharks and accounted for most of the scoring. Merritt scored 12, shooting 5-of-13 from the field and had three assists and two steals. Robinson was 8-of-20 and 2-of-2 from beyond the arc to give her 20 points. She also pulled down seven rebounds, dished out four assists, and had three steals.
In overtime, the teams tightened up the defense, and the first 2:00 went by without a basket. Cal’s Kaitlynn Fratz broke the deadlock with a 3-pointer. She was 2-of-5 from long range, 5-of-12 from the floor and hit nine free throws to score 21 points.
Robinson answered right back with a three of her own on the next possession to even the score at 75-75. Then, the inside play of the Vulcans took over. 6-foot freshman Sierra Barrett (Central Valley) 5-foot-11 senior Irina Kukolj combined for five straight points to give Cal U an 80-75 lead with under 2:00 to play.
The teams traded baskets, and with under a minute left in overtime, Kayla Wright layed one in to make it a one-possession game and cut the Vulcans lead to 82-79. Cal junior Lana Doran missed a pair of free throws to give Nova Southeastern life with 11 seconds on the clock, but Mahady’s steal and layup sealed the win for Cal U head coach Jess Strom.
The Lady Vulcans will face the winner of Emporia (Kansas) State and West Texas A&M Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. The final three rounds of the women’s NCAA Division-II Basketball Championship are being held at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Photo credit: Don Wright/California University of Pa