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Muhlenberg College

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

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poise “carries” women’s hoops to win

The Muhlenberg women’s basketball team got everything it has come to expect when it travels to Dickinson – defensive pressure all over the floor and a tightly contested game that comes down to the wire. It also got something new – an inordinate number of carrying calls on both teams that helped contribute to the 43 total turnovers.

Most importantly, the Mules got a win – their 24th straight against Centennial Conference opponents - pulling away down the
Alexandra Berlin
Berlin was 6-for-8 from the field, with her only two misses coming from behind the arc. She combined with only four other players (Chili, Clawson, Cook and McKeon) for all the Mules’ points.
stretch to hand the Red Devils their first loss of the season, 76-69. Sophomore Alexandra Chili poured in 31 points on 7-of-11 shooting from behind the arc, and junior Alexandra Berlin had her best game as a Mule, scoring 18 points off the bench.

Muhlenberg, ranked 16th in the new D3hoops.com poll, is off to an impressive 2-0 start in the Centennial Conference, with road wins against two of the teams that figure to be among its biggest challengers. Dickinson received two votes in the D3hoops.com poll and, in its last home game, upset then-No. 15 Moravian.

The Mules led for almost the whole game and appeared to be breaking away midway through the second half, scoring six straight points to open up their biggest lead, 51-41, with 11:40 left. But the Red Devils came right back, going on an 11-0 run to pull ahead for the first time, 59-57, on a three-pointer from the corner with 6:21 on the clock.

“We like to make it exciting,” joked Alexis Bates, one of four seniors who went 2-2 on their four trips to Dickinson, including last year’s two-point win that wasn’t decided until a halfcourt shot hit off the back iron at the final buzzer. “Both teams always fight hard the whole game. We keep our composure and have the confidence to make big plays down the stretch.”

And there were plenty of big plays. After Dickinson went ahead, Chili drove the length of the court for a layup to tie the score at 59. Back at the other end, freshman Kate Clawson rebounded a missed shot. She made both free throws – part of a 13-point performance on perfect shooting (3-for-3 from the field, 7-for-7 from the line) – to put the Mules ahead for good.

Following another Devil miss, Chili drove in for a left-handed layup to extend the lead to four at the 5:21 mark. For the next four minutes, Muhlenberg showed its composure, staying on top when Dickinson drew within two on three separate occasions, either with a clutch basket or a defensive stop.

Berlin had two baskets in that stretch, one on a putback and another on a layup after a nice hesitation dribble at the foul line. Junior Sheila Cook made the biggest defensive play, reaching back to steal a pass and deny Dickinson an attempt at a game-tying layup.

Junior Kelly McKeon made one of two free throws with 1:18 left, then threaded the needle to Chili for a layup with 54 ticks on the clock to make the score 70-65.

Then the Mules really made the game exciting, missing four free throws and committing a turnover and a foul over the next 34 seconds as the Devils scored four straight points to cut the lead to one.

Four free throws by Berlin and two by Chili in the last 19 seconds finally secured the win.

With her 31 points, Chili became the fourth player in team history to record two 30-point games; she netted her career high of 33 against Moravian last year.

Muhlenberg is the only 2-0 team in the CC (two others are 1-0, and everyone else has at least one loss) as it is off to a quick start in its quest for an unprecedented third straight title.

“We think we have a special team,” said Bates, who led the Mules with seven rebounds. “As we grow we will only get better.”
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