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Muhlenberg College

Saturday, February 26, 2011

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women’s basketball reaches CC final

The Muhlenberg women’s basketball team wasn’t just hot at the start of its Centennial Conference playoff game against Gettysburg. It was Cook-ing.

Fueled by senior Sheila Cook, who scored 16 of her game-high 22 points in the first half, the
Mules-Blue Jays VIII

It’s not exactly earth-shattering news that Muhlenberg and Johns Hopkins will meet in the championship game. Of the Mules' first nine title game appearances, seven came against the Blue Jays, including five straight from 1996 to 2000.

Hopkins (21-4) staged late comebacks to win both regular-season meetings this year, 86-75 in overtime and 67-57.

“I come from a high school where I never went to the postseason,” said Erin Laney. “It’s so great to be here with a team that wants to win and knows how to win. We all have that mentality, and we’ll be ready for tomorrow.”

“If we play like we played in the first half today, I have no worries,” said Sheila Cook.

Mules breezed to a 75-60 win to advance to the CC championship game for the fourth year in a row. Muhlenberg will play host Johns Hopkins, a 71-59 winner against Franklin & Marshall, in the final.

Cook, whose career high of 26 came in a CC semifinal game two years ago
Kelly McKeon
In seven career CC playoff games, McKeon is averaging 15.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists.
against McDaniel, was a perfect 6-for-6 from the field in the first half. And she had plenty of company when it came to good shooting.

Moving the ball crisply and purposefully on offense, the Mules (20-5) made 11 of their first 13 field-goal attempts against a Bullet team that entered the game second in the CC in both scoring defense and field-goal percentage defense. On their two misses in that span, the Mules got an offensive rebound and scored on their second chance.

It wasn’t until a missed three-pointer at the 8:50 mark that Muhlenberg had an offensive possession on which it took a shot and did not score. By that time, the score was 32-11.

“It really felt like we couldn’t miss,” said Cook. “We haven’t had a game like that all year where we came out and everyone was hitting their
Erin Laney
Laney was one of six Mules to score points in the first seven minutes of the game.
shots. It was such a team effort. I don’t think we could have played a better first half.”

The Mules finished the first half with a 44-29 lead, and much of their success came inside despite the absence of starting center Kathleen Naddaff, who was injured in last Saturday’s regular-season finale. Cook and freshmen post players Erin Laney and Leeann Lanza combined to score 23 first-half points on 9-of-12 shooting.

“We came into the game wanting to dominate, and I think we did just that,” said Laney. “With Kathleen out, we wanted to prove our posts could be tough without her. She was our post coach on the bench and helped us out a lot.”

Muhlenberg shot 64 percent in the first half, and although it cooled off a little in the second, the lead remained comfortable. In fact, the Mules took their biggest lead of the game at 59-37 on a putback by sophomore Alita Zabrecky with 11:21 left.

Gettysburg (19-7) went on a 13-2 run later in the half to cut the bulge to 10, but Muhlenberg’s guards responded with two big plays. With 3:19 left, the score 66-56 and the shot clock winding down, junior Alexandra Chili found senior Kelly McKeon for a backdoor layup.

A minute later, with the lead now at 11, senior Alexandra Berlin finished off a nice spin move on the baseline with a layup at the shot-clock buzzer.

McKeon finished the game with 17 points and 11 rebounds for her second double-double of the season, while Chili had 13 points and 6 assists. She made two three-pointers to move to within one of the CC record of 242 career threes; she’s also seven points away from breaking her school mark for points in a season.

Lanza added 8 points and 9 rebounds.

The victory gave Muhlenberg 20 wins for the fourth year in a row, a feat previously accomplished in College athletic history only by volleyball (1991-95) and softball (1988-92).
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