Scranton, Pa. – In the closest contest the Catholic University women's basketball team has played all season, the Lady Cardinals defeated the University of Scranton Royals 52-51 on Saturday afternoon to capture the 2014-15 Landmark Conference Women's Basketball Title.
"This was an incredibly exciting game to be apart of," said head coach Matt Donohue. "We knew we had to defend and rebound a lot better than we did last week if we were going to be in a position to win the game."
For her outstanding output of 15 points, nine rebounds, a 6 of 9 finish from the field and a 3 of 4 finish from the charity stripe, sophomore Melissa Errico (Harrington Park, N.J. / Old Tappan) was named the 2014-15 Landmark Tournament MVP. Alongside Errico's solid finish was sophomore Michelle DeSantis (Trumbull, Conn. / Lauralton Hall), who capped the night with 13 points and a 6 of 12 finish from the field.
"Melissa (Errico) has grown a great deal this year and is extremely hard worker. She has taken great pride in her defense and is hopefully starting to realize how good she can really be," said Donohue. "She's had good year, but really stepped her game up in this post season. We knew that we would need her to play well in order to have an opportunity to win and she embraced the challenges that this week presented."
Over the course of 40 minutes of play, the Cardinals and the Royals varied between seven ties and 22 lead changes.
Catholic took its largest lead of the first half at the 2:44 mark with a four-point margin advantage with a layup from Payton Smith (Spring Lake Heights, N.J. / St. Rose High School) and a three pointer from Kristen Walheim (Malvern, Pa. / Villa Maria Academy).
Scranton tied the contest with 1:33 remaining, but CUA regained the lead to end the first 20 minutes 21-20.
The Royals controlled most of the second half, essentially maintaining the lead for over 13 minutes of play. The Landmark hosts went on to reach a game-high five-point margin lead by the 5:35 mark.
Donohue called a timeout after the pair of made free-throws by Scranton with 5:35 remaining, which was became pivotal moment for the Cardinals that led to the squad's 10-0 run for a five-point lead.
"We called a timeout after Scranton went on a 7-2 run late in the game. We were obviously at a critical point in the game and we knew we needed a good possession," stated Donohue. "Fortunately, our student-athletes went out and executed extremely well and we were able to get Michelle (DeSantis) free for a very good look. It certainly energized the entire team."
Catholic and Scranton continued to battle over the next three minutes, but with 53 seconds remaining in the game, the Royals missed two crucial layups. In the end, CUA upset Scranton 52-51.
"Scranton made a great play on the ball with 53 seconds to go. They are a great team and that is what great teams do. They give themselves a chance to win when they needed to," explained Donohue. "As a collective team we knew we were going to have to defend and I thought we did a great job of not allowing them to get a clean look at the basket in the last minute"
Statistically, the Cards shot 56 percent from the free-throw line (5 of 9), 44 percent from the field (22 of 50) and 25 percent from behind the arc (3 of 12). The Royals finished the night at 70 percent from the charity stripe (7 of 10), 36 percent from the field (21 of 59) and 20 percent from three-point range (2 of 10).
CUA now awaits information regarding their NCAA Championship Tournaments, the selection show is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Monday, March 2.