WASHINGTON – The Catholic University of America women's basketball team pushed through a first half six-point deficit to clinch the program's third Landmark Conference Championship berth since the foundation of the league with a 52-47 win over Elizabethtown.
With the victory, the No. 2 Cardinals improves to an overall record of 18-8, while No. 3 E-Town concludes the season at 18-7 overall and 11-5 in the league. The win also marks the Cardinals second win over the Blue Jays this season.
"The last timeout against Elizabethtown we had some difficulties defending the perimeter, so our overall goal tonight was to switch our defensive looks throughout the game to try to keep them a little off balance," said head coach Matt Donohue. "They are an extremely well coached and disciplined team, and they did great job of making adjustments throughout the first half."
Two Cardinals scored in double figures, with sophomore Michelle DeSantis notching a team-high 16 points and Melissa Errico scoring 14 points. DeSantis also added nine rebounds, six assists and five steals to the total output.
CUA came out strong in the opening five minutes of play, holding the Blue Jays scoreless and forcing two turnovers and six missed shots until the 15:46 mark for a score of 6-0.
Once E-Town scored, the visiting Landmark foes set out on a 15-9 run to tie the contest at 15 points apiece.
With 5:01 remaining in the first half the Blue Jays reached the second tie of the contest and converted the balanced score into a lead for a score of 28-22 by the intermission.
"At halftime, we simply talked about how they were attacking us on defense and the necessary adjustments that we needed to make," said Donohue. "On the defensive side of things we just seemed to be a little out of sync."
The Cardinals took heed to Donohue's words and paced to a 10-5 run to regain the lead by the 14:28 mark for a score of 34-33.
Catholic held E-Town to a single-digit until DeSantis converted a Blue Jay turnover into a layup for the only double-figure lead of the second half.
Despite Elizabethtown's best efforts, they were unable to take the lead again and suffered a 52-47 loss to the semifinal hosts.
Statistically, Catholic shot 60 percent from the free-throw line (9 of 15), 40 percent from the field (21 of 53) and 9 percent from behind the arc (1 of 11), while Elizabethtown shot 38 percent from the charity stripe (6 of 16), 33 percent from the field (19 of 57) and 23 percent from the long range (3 of 13).
For the Cardinals third championships appearance, CUA will take on the University of Scranton. The Royals defeated the Susquehanna Crusaders 92-49 in the second Landmark Conference semifinal contest of the evening.
Scranton will enter Saturday's game with a record of 24-2 overall. During the regular season, the Cardinals and Royals split the two meetings of the season. CUA's win over Scranton marked the Pennsylvania foes only conference loss of the year.
"Going into Saturday's game against Scranton, we hope to learn from our mistakes from the last timeout," said Donohue. "Scranton is a tremendous program and are well coached. They take advantage of the mistakes and they play together as a team. We need to play together, play smart and play hard for 40 minutes and that is the goal"
Catholic heads up to Scranton, Pa., on Saturday, Feb. 28 for a 7 p.m. Landmark Championships tilt in Scranton, Pa.