By Chris McManes
WASHINGTON – If they are anything, they are resilient.
Trailing by 15 points with exactly 10 minutes to go in regulation, the No. 12/13 Catholic University women's basketball team rallied to force overtime and then won it, 79-75 over No. 23 Moravian College at a raucous DuFour Center on Saturday afternoon.
The victory gives the Cardinals (24-1, 13-1) their first Landmark Conference regular-season championship and the top seed in the league tournament. The win concluded Senior Night for eight CUA seniors.
The Cards will host Juniata on Wednesday night at 5:30. It will be the first Landmark Conference Tournament game the Cardinals have hosted.
After the Greyhounds (20-5, 11-3) took a 73-71 lead early in overtime, Jill Woerner made the first of two free throws to draw CUA within one. Kelli Josephsen put the Cards on top for good, 75-73, when she nailed a 3-pointer from the right corner. Woerner made it 77-73 by splashing two free throws with 57.5 seconds left in the contest.
Josephsen came up big again by grabbing Katie O'Rourke's missed front end of a one-and-one, and Woerner blocked O'Rourke's driving layup. After two balls went out of bounds to the Greyhounds, Laura Jordan hit a follow shot to bring Moravian to 77-75 at the 10.8-second mark.
Emily Grabiak sealed the Cardinals' 17th straight home triumph – 12 this year – by hitting a pair of foul shots less than a second later. The Greyhounds, who handed the Cards their only loss of the season, could not get off a final shot.
Woerner, playing her final regular-season home game, scored a team-high 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Fellow senior Katarina Owunna finished with 11 points, 13 boards and five blocks. Josephsen, one of four seniors in the starting lineup, and Jenny McGann scored 12 points each.
Grabiak was outstanding at the point, grabbing a career-high-tying 13 rebounds and dishing a personal-high 12 assists.
Laura Jordan paced Moravian with 16 points and nine boards. O'Rourke had 15 points and eight assists, and Alexis Wright tallied 12 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. Aleysha Marcks came off the bench to score 11 points, and Amanda Kreuder contributed 10.
Neither team shot particularly well. CUA was 30 of 83 (36.1 percent) and the Greyhounds were 32 of 88 (36.4 percent). Each squad made just two 3-pointers. After committing nine turnovers in the first 20 minutes, the Cardinals had a mere five more.
Trailing 41-40 early in the second half, the Greyhounds reeled off 10 straight points in a 21-5 run to take command, 61-46 with 10 minutes to play. Marcks had eight points in the stretch.
The Cardinals' rally was fueled by defensive pressure, particularly in the backcourt, and when Owunna followed her own miss with 4:07 to go in regulation, CUA was behind by just four, 65-61. The Cards tied it at 67 when McGann sank a free throw and took a 69-67 lead on a Woerner runner. A Wright layup knotted it at 69 with 47 seconds remaining before the extra frame.
After McGann missed a layup, Owunna stole the ball in the paint and the Cardinals called timeout with 10.1 seconds on the clock. Grabiak misfired on a long 3-pointer as time expired.
The Cardinals fell behind by 10 points midway through the first half and trailed 34-27 with 3:09 before halftime. They closed with a 7-2 run to cut the Moravian lead to 36-34 at the break. Owunna scored five points in the closing flurry.
NOTES – Seniors Jill Woerner, Katarina Owunna, Rachel Ferri, Kelli Josephsen, Mary Hagaman, Kristen Kitrick, Dana Coronato and Jenny McGann were honored before their final regular-season home game. … CUA Coach Matt Donohue presented a yellow rose to Moravian seniors Amanda Kreuder and Katie Marakos prior to the game. … Donohue received a game ball from Cardinal Athletic Director Mike Allen commemorating his 200th career victory, which came on January 23 at Goucher … Collis Jones, who played at Notre Dame from 1968-71 and the 17th-leading scorer in school history, attended the game, as did CUA President Dr. John Garvey. … The game was delayed about an hour and 45 minutes because the Greyhounds' bus broke down.
No. 12/13 Cards rally from 15 points down to clinch top seed
By Chris McManes