Tuesday, April 16, 2024

No. 4 Christopher Newport Holds Off Mary Washington to Capture Fifth Straight Conference Crown, 71-67

(Erin Farina/CNU Athletics)

NEWPORT NEWS — For the third time in as many meetings against Mary Washington this season, the nationally-ranked Christopher Newport women’s basketball team found itself locked in a hard-fought battle against the Eagles deep into the fourth quarter. And for the third time this season, the Captains (26-1) came out victorious. This time, CNU earned the 2024 Coast-To-Coast Athletic Conference Championship, holding off upset-minded Mary Washington by a final score of 71-67 in front of over 800 fans at the Freeman Center on Saturday night.

Enduring a game that saw 41 fouls whistled and over 50 free-throws attempted between the two teams, the Captains weathered a second-half surge by the second-seeded Eagles (16-9) and never trailed in the fourth quarter. The Eagles scored 12 straight points late in the third quarter to take a 47-46 lead with 1:55 remaining, but the Captains answered with seven of the next nine including a dramatic buzzer-beating three-pointer by Hannah Kaloi to re-take a four-point lead, 53-49, heading into the final period.

Kaloi led all scorers with 17 points and added seven rebounds in the game. She and senior Gabbi San Diego, who was named the C2C Tournament MVP in 2023, stepped up for the Captains on Saturday as San Diego added 13 points and three assists to finish as the only CNU players in double figures. Mary Washington had four players in double figures led by 15 points from Sydney Sherman and a double-double from C2C Player of the Year Jordan Carpenter with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

As a team, CNU shot just 33.3 percent from the field (21-63) and a paltry 19 percent (4-21) from three-point range. From the free-throw line, though, the Captains were 25-of-30 including 12-of-15 in the final quarter as Mary Washington was forced to foul late. San Diego led the performance from the line, going 7-for-7, including five straight in the fourth quarter to help ice the championship win.

The Captains secured the team’s fifth straight conference championship and seventh in 11 seasons under head coach Bill Broderick. It’s the 17th conference crown in program history and Christopher Newport earned the automatic qualifier from the C2C into the NCAA Division III National Championship. CNU will be making the program’s 24th all-time appearance in the postseason tournament, ranking tied for the fifth most in NCAA Division III history.

In Saturday’s title game, the teams traded baskets for the majority of the first quarter as both defenses reigned over the offensive production. Mary Washington led, 11-9, with 2:28 left in the opening quarter before the Captains finished the period on a 7-0 run to take the largest lead of the game at the time, 16-11. San Diego kicked off the spurt with a wicked crossover dribble to get to the left side of cup and scoop it in for two. After an offensive foul gave CNU the ball back, they turned to sophomore sharpshooter McKenna Snively for the team’s first make from beyond the arc. With seemingly no space after a quick pass from Alivia Giles, Snively snapped in a three from the left wing. The mini-run was finished out when Hailey Kellogg poked away a steal right into the hands of Alexia Lindsey for a fast-break layup and a 16-11 lead after ten minutes.

In the second quarter, Christopher Newport built a game-high 16-point lead, 38-22, with a dominant stretch of the 2024 C2C Championship. The Captains went on a 10-0 run early in the second quarter and were led by Camille Malagar with six points in the period as CNU tried to pull away. Her effort included a beautiful hesitation to lose her defender before dropping in a runner in the lane. Despite the hot start, Mary Washington closed the first half on a run of their own and cut the lead back to single digits heading into the locker room down only eight, 41-33. The momentum shifted when the Eagles scored nine of the last ten points in the half including five at the free-throw line.

At the intermission, the Captains nearly doubled up Mary Washington in attempts from the field with 34 versus just 18 shots from the field for the visitors in the first 20 minutes. The Eagles knocked down 50 percent (9-18) while CNU shot 38.2 percent (13-34).

CNU connected on a thee-pointer by Kaloi to start the second half and San Diego added a mid-range jumper to maintain a double-digit lead, 46-35, with 6:22 left in the third quarter. From there, Mary Washington caught fire while playing through Carpenter. The Eagles’ veteran leader either scored or assisted on five of the six baskets in a 12-0 UMW run to take the lead, 47-46, with 1:55 left in the period.

Mary Washington would lead for only 17 seconds though, as Christopher Newport teetered back in front with second chance points on their next possession. Making huge back-to-back plays, junior guard Alexia Lindsey lifted the Captains back in front for good. Lindsey hauled in a key offensive rebound and spit a pass back out to Katy Rader for a jumper two steps in front of the three-point line. Moments later, the junior guard made a pivotal drive to the basket as Lindsey raced by her defender and made a highlight-reel finish around a second defender, laying it up and in for two.

After two free-throws by Carpenter, the Captains opted for the last shot in the third quarter leading by one. Setting up the play, San Diego waited for the clock to tick into single digits before driving through a pair, spinning, and kicking out to the top of the key for Kaloi where the junior forward was ready to bury a thrilling, momentous three-pointer to give the Captains a 53-49 lead headed into the fourth.

Mary Washington seemingly had an answer for every big shot late in the game as Keagan Schwab connected on a three-pointer of her own to start the fourth. Kaloi finished on a nice lob pass by Camille Malagar and then the Eagles answered again with a jumper by Megan Baxter. Both teams went back-and-forth trading baskets until there was less than three and a half minutes remaining and CNU held a 59-58 advantage. Then, it was San Diego, again. This time, the diminutive point guard drove into the paint and fired up a huge layup through contact and was fouled — she knocked down the free-throw and gave CNU a four-point edge again, 62-58. It triggered a short 5-0 run that built the lead back to six after two from the line by Rader.

Down to the last two minutes, Mary Washington closed to within two in the tight contest, but the Captains got a pivotal offensive rebound by Alivia Giles, leading to a put-back bucket in the paint for the senior foward. Mary Washington called a timeout and drew up a play to get a three-point attempt from Schwab, but it rattled off the iron and Kaloi hauled in the rebound. Forced to foul, Mary Washington sent CNU to the line for six shots in the final 30 seconds and Christopher Newport knocked down 5-of-6 to close out the win. The Eagles got late-game makes from Schwab and Sydney Sherman for the final tally of 71-67.

Rebounding proved monumental for the matchup, especially late in the game. Kaloi led the way with seven rebounds but four more CNU players hauled in four in the game including three on the offensive glass by Elizabeth Creed and huge second-half caroms by Ashley Steadman and Katy Rader. Mary Washington led the battle of the boards, 38-31, but CNU scored 18 second-chance points compared to just three for the Eagles.

The Captains earned the 52nd consecutive win at the Freeman Center and improved to 26-1 overall this season. The four-point margin of victory is tied for the closest win during the record-breaking win streak at the Freeman Center, matching a 72-68 win over Salisbury on February 15, 2020. It is the closest win for CNU at home since a two-point win over Stevenson (66-64) on November 14, 2018.

CNU will be making the team’s eight straight NCAA Tournament appearance and tenth in eleven seasons under head coach Bill Broderick. The selection show will be broadcast live on NCAA.com at 2:30 p.m. on Monday, February 26 when the Captains will learn the location and opponent of its first round matchup, which will be played on Friday, March 1.

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