WASHINGTON, Pa. - The third-seeded women's basketball team downed top-seeded Washington & Jefferson, 73-70, to win the program's first ever ECAC South Championship on Sunday at the Henry Memorial Center.
The Mustangs (17-10), who were making their third-straight postseason appearace, upended a Presidents (24-6) squad that had suffered all five of its previous losses this season to teams that qualified for the NCAA tournament, including three losses to defending national champion Thomas More.
Stevenson held a 67-58 lead with just under six minutes left following a basket by senior Caitlin Roy before Washington & Jefferson went on a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to just two with 3:02 left to play. The teams battled back and forth, but the Mustangs held onto their lead. With 43.2 seconds to play, Washington and Jefferson's Amirah Moore hit Beka Bellhy for a layup to get within one, 71-70.
After giving a foul with 38 seconds left, Washington & Jefferson played tight defense but junior Sara Tarbert was able to hit Roy on a cross court pass who went up for a layup and drew a foul. Roy hit both free throws and the Mustangs got a defensive stop to seal their 73-70 victory as a three-point attempt by Bellhy was off the mark.
Roy hit a three pointer just 20 seconds into the game to get Stevenson on the board and give them an early lead. The Presidents quickly responded with nine-straight points on three free throws, a three pointer, and an old fashioned three point play. A layup from Tarbert got Stevenson to within four, but Washington & Jefferson capitalized on the fast break and added four more points, stretching their lead, 13-5.
With 3:54 remaining in the opening period, junior Haley Bauer and freshman Jonyae Curry hit back-to-back shots from behind the arc to cut Stevenson's deficit to four. The Presidents were able to extend their lead to five, but another Mustang three-pointer, this time from senior Brittney Page at the last second, made it a one-possession game at the end of the period, 22-20.
After trailing by as much as six during the second quarter, senior Stephanie Martinez hit her second three pointer to give Stevenson their first lead since the opening shot of the game, 34-32. Martinez's shot sparked a 7-2 run to close out the half. The run was highlighted by free throws from Tarbert and freshman Armani Duckett-Mooney.
Stevenson held a 39-34 advantage entering halftime after shooting 46.7 percent from the floor and 54.5 percent from behind the arc. Washington & Jefferson shot 31.4 percent from the floor and 28.6 percent from three point range. In the first half, Stevenson totaled 13 assists with eight of nine players having recorded at least one.
The Mustangs extended their lead to 11 points, 50-39, with 5:12 left in the third quarter after Roy hit her second three pointer of the game, but the Presidents hit four of their next five shot attempts to cut their deficit to four. The teams traded baskets as the guests maintained their lead and extended it to six, 57-51 with a buzzer beater from Duckett-Mooney to close the third period.
Stevenson finished shooting 51.9 percent from the floor, holding the Presidents to just 35.7 percent. With 21 assists, nine of 10 Mustangs recorded at least one in the game.
Tarbert recorded her 18th double-double of the season with 16 points and 13 rebounds as she was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player after averaging 26.7 points and 12.7 rebounds in three tournament games. Joining Tarbert in double figures were Martinez with 14 points and four assists, and Roy with 12 points.
The game marks the end of careers for Martinez, Page, and Roy. The group led the Mustangs to three-straight conference tournament and postseason appearances.
Junior Sara Tarbert was named the ECAC South Championship Most Outstanding Player
Photos courtesy Martin Santek Photography