Late Free Throw Gives Women's Basketball Big Win on Special Day

Saturday, February 1, 2014
 

Men’s basketball Track & field, wrestling

Erin Laney couldn’t believe her ears. Locked in a tie game against McDaniel, the senior on the Muhlenberg women’s basketball team had just secured a defensive rebound in the final second. She held on for dear life, assuming the battle would continue into overtime. Then came the whistle.

“I was shocked,” Laney said. “I heard the whistle, and I was looking around wondering what it could be.”

Ron Rohn 250th win
The thirlling game was bookended by a pair of ceremonies. Prior to tipoff, Mule seniors Katy Mitton, Laney, Caldwell and Lanza (left to right) presented head coach Ron Rohn with a ball commemorating his recent 250th career win.

After the game, sophomore Jordan Labbe received the Aril Bryant Award for her involvement in community serivce. Presenting the award were Bryant's teammates Gwen Doyle '05, Meg Malatack '03, Randi Baran '03 and Lindsay Tis '04, along with former assistant coach Amanda Buss. Labbe works in Muhlenberg's Office of Community Service and Civic Engagement and is a regular volunteer at the Annapolis Lighthouse in her home state of Maryland. She also does volunteer work at two churches and is a member of Best Buddies International.

Aril Bryant Award

It was a reachin foul on McDaniel. With the Green Terror already over the limit and just 0.8 seconds showing on the clock, Laney found herself with two chances to win the game with a free throw. The first was long, but the second was true. Fittingly, Laney intercepted McDaniel’s last-ditch heave, securing a thrilling 60-59 victory that put an exclamation point on the Mules’ “Think Pink” day, held in honor of former player Aril Bryant, who lost her life to breast cancer last summer.

“You can look at that situation two ways,” Laney said of her high-stakes trip to the line. “Either there’s a lot of pressure or no pressure, because even if you miss them both you go to overtime. I told myself if I hit one, we win. Of course I missed the first; I had to get some nerves out. The second one felt good coming out of my hand so I knew it was in.”

It was, and it gave the Mules (12-7, 9-4) plenty of reasons to celebrate. With a sea of pink on hand to show support for those fighting breast cancer as part of the Play 4Kay initiative, it was already a special day. To put the icing on the cake, Muhlenberg’s victory extended its winning streak to five and pulled it into a tie with McDaniel for third place in the Centennial Conference, two games back of Haverford in the loss column. In addition, the Green Terror (14-5, 9-4) came to town on a six-game winning streak.

“It was a great day, a very emotional day,” said Laney, who had 14 points and eight rebounds. “McDaniel was just ahead of us, and this was a big game. It was a great way to celebrate Aril, to come together like that. It just proves the heart of this team and how far we’re willing to go.”

Muhlenberg spent most of the day going inside to Leanna Tallamy. The junior finished with a game-high 27 points and eight rebounds and added a career-best four steals on the defensive end. Tallamy, as usual, lived at the foul line, making 15 of 18 to put her just four away from tying the school record for free throws made in a season (123). She split a pair with 36.8 seconds left, pulling the Mules into a 59-all tie and setting the stage for the stunning finish.

Holding for the last shot, the Green Terror had a look at a baseline jumper, but the shot was long, and Laney secured the carom, ready for time to expire. But several McDaniel players surrounded her, and one got a piece of her arm.

“I thought it was going to be an air ball, so I jumped too soon,” said Laney, who added a block and two steals. “I was thinking, oh shoot, I’m not going to get this, but I jumped again and pulled it down. I knew they were going to come hard. I guess I had it at such an angle that the girl hit my arm, and the ref was right there. I got lucky on that one; you don’t see that call a lot.”

“We like to make it interesting,” said senior Leeann Lanza with a laugh. “It can never be easy.”

That hardly mattered to the Mules. Despite holding its opponent to 34-percent shooting, Muhlenberg found itself in a nail-biter as McDaniel hit one three-pointer after another. The Green Terror made 10 for the game, including one during an 11-0 run that gave it a 45-41 lead with 14 minutes remaining. A three-point play by junior Hannah Rush and a jumper by Laney gave the Mules the lead right back, setting off a seesaw battle in which neither team led by more than three over the last 13 minutes. Muhlenberg saved its best defense for last, holding the Green Terror scoreless over the final 3:38 after falling behind 59-56 on a three-pointer.

Senior Colleen Caldwell had four assists for Muhlenberg, which finished with 14 assists and 12 turnovers against the team leading the CC in steals and turnover margin. It also forced 20 McDaniel turnovers and came up with 13 steals to cap another strong defensive effort.

Next up for the Mules, winners of seven of eight: a date at Haverford, and a chance to pull even closer to the conference lead.

“We’re a mentally tough team,” Laney said. “There may have been points in the season where we doubted that, but right now we’re playing as well as we have all year. We just have to keep pushing forward.”
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