Women's Basketball Survives Second Buzzer-Beater, Wins in OT

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Track & field, men’s basketball, wrestling

The Muhlenberg women’s basketball game on Groundhog Day had a perfect Groundhog Day moment.

In the Mules’ game on Wednesday, Swarthmore banked in a three-pointer at the buzzer to take the victory. This time, Franklin & Marshall also hit a glass-kissing, buzzer-beating three to end regulation, but this time the shot didn’t end the game, it extended it.

Kate Clawson
Clawson scored 13 of her 17 points in the second half and overtime. In the last two games, she is 5-of-7 from three-point range.
And just like Bill Murray’s character ultimately finds the path to happiness, Muhlenberg wrote its own happy ending, outscoring the Diplomats 13-6 in overtime to take the game, 71-64.

“For a second I thought we were up by only two, so I thought they had won in the same way Swarthmore had,” said senior Kate Clawson. “But thank God we had just hit two free throws so their three only tied it.”

Although Franklin & Marshall scored first in overtime, hot shooting by sophomore Nicole Pepe helped the Mules retake and hold the lead. Pepe hit a jumper, a three-pointer and two free throws in a 46-second span – for half of her career-high 14 points – to give the Mules a 65-60 advantage with 2:24 to play.

The Diplomats cut the Muhlenberg lead to one, but a jumper from the left elbow by senior Alita Zabrecky, a steal by junior Erin Laney and a turnaround layup by Zabrecky put the Mules back up by five with 39.8 ticks of the clock remaining.

Clawson iced the win by sinking two free throws with 14.2 seconds to play. She finished with a season-high 17 points on 3-of-4 shooting from behind the arc, six rebounds and two blocks.

The overtime period was the result of a steady second-half rally, as the Mules (12-8, 9-6) struggled to find the bottom of the net during the first 20 minutes of play. They shot just 28.1 percent from the field and trailed the Diplomats (7-14, 4-12) by 10 heading into the locker room.

“We really talked about being calm at halftime,” said Clawson. “We were running around like chickens with our heads cut off and just being crazy. We needed to execute our offense, calm down and be patient.”

Clawson and Zabrecky, who led the team with 20 points, both hit threes in the opening minutes of the second half, but it was not until midway through that the Mules got within five. Shortly after a three by Pepe, the Mules forced a shot clock violation and Zabrecky hit another three to make it 45-42 with 9:13 remaining in regulation.

An offensive rebound and putback by Laney tied the score at 47. The Mules then took their first lead since the opening minutes on a steal by Pepe and a fastbreak layup by sophomore Hannah Rush with 4:44 to go.

The lead would change four more times in the remaining minutes before Franklin & Marshall’s game-tying, buzzer-beating three-pointer by a forward who had not attempted a three all season.

“Honestly we were a little bit down when that last three went in,” Clawson said. “But we said ‘let’s just stay positive.’ Other than that shot, we had the momentum going into the last five minutes, so we wanted to just continue it and do what we needed to do to be smart and get the win.“

The Mules were 6-for-10 from three-point range in the second half and hit eight of 16 threes overall.

“We just had confidence when we calmed down in the second half,” stated Clawson. “We would make a shot and just move on to the next play. I think that’s what gave us momentum – getting one stop on defense and then getting in a good play on offense.”

Junior Leeann Lanza led the team on the glass with eight boards, and Rush led the offense, dishing out six assists.

The win gave the Mules a season sweep of the Diplomats and snapped their three-game overtime losing streak. Their last overtime win came in February of 2010 against Haverford.

With two weeks to go in the regular season, Muhlenberg is in a virtual three-way tie for third place in the Centennial Conference, two games ahead of Dickinson and Washington for the final playoff spot.

“Hitting those free throws at the end of overtime was such a relief because it would have been so disappointing if we lost another game because of a play like that,” added Clawson of the buzzer-beater. “Going home with a win like this is just really nice.”
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