Tuesday, June 25, 2024

No. 4 CNU Women’s Basketball Season Ends in Second Round as No. 17 Johns Hopkins Snaps Streak, 77-75

(Sydney Smith)

NEWPORT NEWS — For the first time since 2015 the NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Round of 16 will be played without Christopher Newport after a second-round upset by 17th-ranked Johns Hopkins University halted a streak of seven straight ‘Sweet 16’ appearances by the Captains (27-2).

In a back-and-forth matchup at the Freeman Center that featured 11 ties and 19 lead changes, the Captains suffered its first ever home loss in the NCAA Tournament, 77-75, in a game that would come down to the final shot.

The Captains were led by Alivia Giles in her final game wearing a CNU uniform as the senior scored 18 points and 12 rebounds in 28 minutes of action. Camille Malagar led all scorers with 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting while also adding a game-high six assists. Four of the five starters on both teams finished in double figures in a battle waged between the starting units, including 13 points from Hannah Kaloi and 11 by Gabbi San Diego.

The loss concludes the Captains’ season with a 27-2 overall record and snaps a handful of impressive streaks for Christopher Newport women’s basketball. Coming into the game, CNU had recorded the longest active run of wins at home in Division III with 54 straight victories dating back to December 16, 2018. The Captains also had won all 10 NCAA Tournament games played in the Freeman Center dating back to the first win on February 27, 2002 against Hood College. CNU’s seven straight Round of 16 appearances are tied for the third most in Division III NCAA Tournament history and the last time the Captains reached the NCAA Tournament and did not advance to the second weekend was 2009, a span of 11 championship appearances.

On Saturday, the Captains faced off against a talented Johns Hopkins squad ranked 15th in the WBCA Top 25 and No. 17 in the D3hoops.com national rankings after the Blue Jays earned a hard-fought first round win against Marietta. The first quarter was back-and-forth until CNU took a 21-15 lead on a three-point play by Alivia Giles on the first of five assists by Gabbi San Diego. Hopkins cut it to four but Hannah Kaloi finished on a nice feed from Caitlin Crump with 2:17 left in the opening quarter to re-take a six-point edge.

Wrapping around the quarter break, the Blue Jays caught fire and scored eight straight points to take a 25-23 advantage on back-to-back three-pointers in the second period. The offenses, which were red-hot in the first ten minutes, cooled dramatically in the second as both teams struggled to find the bottom of the cup in the second quarter. CNU teetered back in front by three on a 5-0 spurt from Camille Malagar, but two more three-pointers and a jumper by Elisabeth Peebles put Hopkins on top by six with a minute to go before halftime. Beating the buzzer with a stick-back layup, Giles sent the Captains into the locker room down just four, 34-30, but it was only the third time this season CNU trailed at the break.

The Captains came out of the locker room with a renewed sense of urgency and re-took the lead by the end of the third quarter. Alexia Lindseysnagged an interception at mid-court and McKenna Snively hauled in a pair of her career-high tying six rebounds before getting fouled down by two. The sophomore calmly connected on the two game-tying free-throws with 5:43 left in the third quarter and momentum slowly shifted back to CNU. Neither team scored for nearly three full minutes before Giles was found on the back post after a nice drive into the paint by Malagar.

Free throws for Johns Hopkins kept it close, but Malagar finished another three-point play with 2:12 remaining and Giles added another bucket late as Christopher Newport carried a tenuous 46-45 advantage into the final quarter.

After a defensive war between the two teams for the first 30 minutes, things opened up in the fourth quarter as the two teams combined for 61 points in a wild finish to the postseason matchup. First, CNU looked to gain footing with a hot start, scoring nine of the first eleven points in the period to re-take their largest lead of the night at six points, 55-49. The burst included a pair of and-one buckets — one by Giles and one by Malagar — and a steal at halfcourt by Kaloi, who would finish out the points off the turnover with a jumper in the lane.

Hopkins answered right back, nailing back-to-back three-pointers from Macie Feldman and Greta Miller to tie the game at 55-all. Giles added another short jumper before a timeout taken by the Captains. Out of the break, Hopkins got a triple from Elisabeth Peebles and Katy Raderdelivered a tough layup for CNU. The visitors slipped back ahead on a layup and then extended to four two possessions later on yet another three-pointer.

On the next CNU possession, trailing by four, the Captains looked to their hot hand in Malagar as she dribbled into the paint and found Hailey Kellogg open in the corner for three. One night after hitting a season-high 14 three-pointers, it was only the third make from beyond the arc on Saturday but the big shot from the sophomore guard made it 67-66 with less than four minutes to go.

Hopkins again had an answer as Kendall Dunham finished a three-point play in the lane and ticked the lead back to four. Refusing to let the Blue Jays pull ahead by more than two possessions, Kaloi and San Diego went back-to-back to tie the game up at 70-all with 2:21 left in the fourth quarter, setting up a dramatic finish.

Out of a timeout, Hopkins scored five straight points to take a 75-70 lead, but San Diego put the Captains on her shoulders with a tough left-handed layup between two Blue Jays forwards. Johns Hopkins then turned the ball over and gave CNU a chance to tie with less than a minute remaining. San Diego found Malagar driving to the basket and the senior guard was fouled on the finish. She sank the free-throw with 28.1 seconds showing on the clock and the game was tied at 75.

With a chance to hold for the final shot, the Blue Jays went quickly to the basket and were fouled. That would set up the eventual game-winning trip to the free-throw line for Michaela O’Neil, who connected on both at the stripe. CNU got three looks in the final four seconds, hauling in a pair of key offensive rebounds, but the final play would go the way of the Blue Jays as Malagar’s final attempt was blocked by Greta Miller as the buzzer sounded.

Johns Hopkins hit four three-pointers in the fourth quarter and shot 75 percent from the field (12-16). O’Neil scored 10 points to lead the way for Hopkins while Peebles added eight.

CNU was led by Malagar in the final stretch, scoring nine points and adding four assists. Kaloi dropped in six of her 13 in the final ten minutes and Giles added five.

Neither team led by more than six points in the game. The Blue Jays shot 43.9 percent (29-66) and the Captains were 42.4 percent (28-66) in the evenly-played matchup. CNU outrebounded Hopkins, 42-38, including 12 offensive boards that led to nine second-chance points.

The game is the final outing for fifth-year senior Katy Rader, who closes one of the most successful tenures for any athlete in Christopher Newport history. She and the Captains combined for 109 career wins and just eight losses and a winning percentage of over 93 percent. Giles also finishes out her tenure with 86 wins paired with just four losses and a winning percentage of over 95 percent.

Johns Hopkins advances in the NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Championship and will face the University of Scranton in next week’s Round of 16.

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