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Muhlenberg College

Saturday, March 7, 2009

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Wrestling, track and field, men’s lacrosse

how sweet it is –
women’s basketball reaches sweet 16

celebration scoreboard When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And when the NCAA sends you to Maine, turn the trip into something Sweet.

The Muhlenberg women’s basketball team advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history with a 58-57 win at Bowdoin. The Mules will face Brandeis next Friday at a site to be announced (either Muhlenberg, Brandeis, Amherst or New York University).

To win their 12th consecutive game, the Mules not only had to overcome an early deficit and a late Bowdoin charge, but they also had to pull off something that had never been done. The Polar Bears entered the game 31-0 all-time in NCAA and conference home games and were 103-5 at Morrell Gymnasium the last seven years.

“We understand the tradition here, but we have a team that’s been making history all year,” said head coach Ron Rohn. “We came in with the idea that we wanted to do something historic.”

The historic turned hysteric down the stretch in front of a boisterous crowd of 1,624. Muhlenberg led 58-48 after sophomore Sheila Cook made a jumper with 5:26 left, but did not score the rest of the game as the Polar Bears (24-5) ramped up their defense, forcing the Mules to run down the shot clock on nearly every possession.

“The crowd was crazy,” said senior Lauren Boyle. “We knew they were going to make a run, and they did.”

Bowdoin cut the deficit in half in less than a minute, but Muhlenberg’s own tough
Erin McSherry
Senior Erin McSherry made two baskets in the first three minutes to help the Mules to an early 6-2 lead. She finished with 6 points and 7 rebounds.
defense and rebounding kept the score at 58-53 for the next three minutes. With 1:24 left, a pair of free throws made it 58-55, and two more with 43.2 seconds on the clock brought the Polar Bears within one.

Muhlenberg (26-3) again struggled to get an open look on its next possession and had to rush a shot, but sophomore Kelly McKeon tracked down the rebound after a scramble. The shot clock buzzer went off, however, and the ball was awarded to Bowdoin with 10.1 seconds showing.

The Mules argued that the shot had hit the iron, which would have reset the shot clock, but after a conference
Kelly McKeon
McKeon recorded 6 assists and 2 steals. The Mules have a 44-7 record with her as the starting point guard.
the referees upheld the call and reset the game clock to 13.2 seconds.

“I thought it hit the rim, but sometimes you see with your heart and not your eyes,” said Rohn. “We can make that call not matter by playing good defense.”

That they did. The Polar Bears got the ball into the middle and kicked the ball to the corner as the Muhlenberg defense collapsed. A Bowdoin player had an open look, but her shot was long, and junior Alexis Bates snagged the rebound to preserve the win.

Muhlenberg was in a position to barely hang on only because it kept its poise when early in the game. Bowdoin made five three-pointers in the first half and held a 28-20 lead with six minutes to go in the half. But the Mules closed the half on a 13-2 run to take a 33-30 lead into the locker room.

“Being down at Ursinus taught us a lot,” said McKeon, referring to Muhlenberg’s comeback from a 15-point deficit on the road in the last game of the regular season.

The Mules held the Polar Bears without a field goal for more than six minutes at the end of the half. A big three-pointer by junior Kaitlyn O’Malley made it 28-26, and seven free throws (five by McKeon and two by Boyle) put Muhlenberg ahead.

Bowdoin would never retake the lead. The Mules scored the first five points of the second half to widen their lead to eight, and back-to-back three-pointers by freshman Alexandra Chili – who was held scoreless in the first half – helped keep the Polar Bears at bay.

Boyle led the Mules with 16 points and moved into second place on the team’s all-time scoring list with 1,494 for her career. McKeon and sophomore Sheila Cook had 12 points and 9 rebounds apiece. Cook pulled down many big rebounds, helping Muhlenberg to a 41-37 advantage on the boards against the physical Polar Bears.

“They’re very good and very physical,” said a tired Boyle after the game. “I’ve never been through so many screens in my life.”

The Mules, who tied a school and Centennial Conference record with their 26th win, are the fifth CC team to reach the Sweet 16 (the first since McDaniel in 2004) and need one more win to tie the 1997 and 1998 Johns Hopkins teams for the deepest run in league history. (edited 3/9/09)

“Every team from here on is going to be a good team,” said McKeon. “If we can play with this team, we can play with anyone.”
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