Hawks Clinch Third Seed in NEC and Will Host First Tournament Game
The women’s basketball team won both their games this weekend on their way to securing the No. 3 seed in the Northeast Conference (NEC) tournament, and more importantly, a home game in the conference tournament. Their record improved to 15-14, 12-6 in the NEC.
Senior Day ceremonies gave the team extra energy on Saturday, March 2, as they provided the crowd of 1,031 with plenty to cheer about. MU led by as many as 41 points en route to an 85-57 victory over Wagner.
The six seniors for the Hawks each contributed to a true team win. Alysha Womack paced the team with 19 points, adding seven assists. Carly Thibault, Abby Martin and sophomore Sara English chipped in 14 points apiece as MU shot 54.7 percent from the field. Seniors Adriana Allen totaled seven points and Betsy Gadziala scored four.
“It’s been a great ride,” said Martin. “It’s been incredible. We went through a lot; it’s been a great four years to play with these girls.”
Thibault grabbed a team high eight boards, had a career high six assists and led the team with four steals.
Four seniors, Womack, Thibault, Allen and Gabby Singer, converted from beyond the arc as MU shot 53.8 percent (7-13) from long range.
“One of the best senior nights that I’ve been able to be a part of,” said Head Coach Jenny Palmateer. “I’m really proud of these guys and happy that we were able to put it together like that today. It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot and ups and downs, a lot of adversity; just really happy that they were able to step up today.”
The Hawks jumped out to a 12-4 lead and established a presence in the paint. They scored 44 points in the paint for the game. The ball was being shared the entire contest as the team had 23 assists.
Taking a 35-21 lead into the half, the Blue and White didn’t let up. Womack opened the half with a three pointer to start a 32-5 run. The run saw a streak of four straight three-point plays, three from beyond the arc and a foul on a Thibault lay-up in which she made the free throw.
“On the offensive end, it was a goal of ours today to push the ball,” said Palmateer. “I thought we ran transition better today than we have in a long time. I really just think that when we play like that it gives us energy. It forces us to play with energy.”
MU outscored Wagner 31-10 in points off turnovers. After Wagner took a 4-2 lead in the early minutes, the Hawks never trailed again in their most convincing win of the season.
On Monday night, MU hosted Mount St. Mary’s to decide seeding in the conference tournament. It was a tight game throughout, but the Hawks prevailed with a 71-63 victory.
Womack led the team with 17 points and five assists. Three other Hawks reached double figures as Thibault, Martin and Chevannah Paalvast scored 11 points each.
MU got off to a slow start in a fast paced game. The Mount controlled the paint, scoring 14 of their 34 first half points inside the paint. The Blue and White battled and kept it close, taking advantage of 10 Mountaineer turnovers.
Kasey Chambers hit a three pointer on her only shot of the game, and pulled MU within one, at 20-19 with just under six minutes left in the half. A minute and a half later, Thibault connected on a baseline three of her own to give the Hawks their first lead, 24-22, with 4:30 left in the first half.
“We got off to a little bit of a slow start,” Palmateer said. “A little sluggish energy wise, but second half we came out with a little more fire.”
Womack struggled to find her stroke for most of the game, and went to the bench with 17:41 remaining in the game. When she returned, there was determination written all over her face. She connected on her last five shots with 15 points in the final 12 minutes.
“I started getting my teammates more involved rather than trying to create too much,” Womack said. “I think just feeding off the energy that my teammates were creating helped me a lot.”
MU stepped up the pressure on defense in the second half and were able to find their groove offensively. Down nine with 10 minutes remaining, MU went on a 30-13 run to end the game and seal a home game in the NEC tournament.
“It felt like a playoff game atmosphere,” said Martin. “Both teams were battling, we were being very physical in the paint so we knew we just had to deliver, pull it out and be strong.”
“We’re just really, really thrilled that we were able to win this game and get a home game in the playoffs,” Palmateer said. “We all know how important that is.”
They return to the court on Sunday, March 10 at 3 pm when they face Mount St. Mary’s in postseason action in the MAC.
PHOTO COURTESY of MU Photography