Women's Basketball Edges Wilkes in "Reunion" Game

Monday, February 10, 2014

In the Muhlenberg women’s basketball team’s previous home game, Erin Laney made a free throw with less than a second remaining for a crucial victory over McDaniel.

Abby Stenger
In addition to her clutch steal and layup, Stenger hit a three-pointer. She finished with two assists and three steals to go along with her five points.
Fast forward nine days, to the Mules’ non-Centennial Conference finale against Wilkes, and the senior forward found herself in a similar situation, at the line with a one-point lead and 16.2 ticks showing. Though the outcome would have no effect on Muhlenberg’s postseason pursuit, the pressure was still on. After all, one teammate was celebrating a birthday, and another was coaching against her.

“I had to do it for Katy,” Laney said of classmate Katy Mitton, who turned 22.

It came with some anxious moments, but Mitton got her birthday wish: a win. Laney knocked down both ends of a one-and-one to give the Mules a 62-59 lead, and the defense forced the Colonels into a desperation heave that fell well short as the buzzer sounded. Muhlenberg closed the contest on a 9-2 run to clinch a winning non-conference mark for the 11th straight season in the return of three members of its 2011 CC championship team.

After dropping back-to-back road games in league play, the Mules returned home for a welcome distraction. They greeted former teammate Kim Mui, now a graduate assistant at Wilkes, and former assistant Chris Heery, now the Colonels’ third-year head coach, with warm hugs before the game, then locked horns with former teammate Ellen Rich during it. The matchup played out like one might expect from so much familiarity; each team finished 23-of-67 from the field and made five three-pointers.

Christina Santone
This layup by sophomore Christina Santone was part of a 23-4 run in the first half that gave the Mules their biggest lead, 38-25 with two minutes left. Santone also had three rebounds, a block and an assist in the run.
Muhlenberg (13-9) took an eight-point lead into halftime before the Colonels fought back, regaining the lead at 49-48 on a three-pointer with 7:26 to play. Wilkes (5-16) led 57-53 on another long ball three minutes later, but the Mules came up big down the stretch. A steal and layup by junior Abby Stenger gave them the lead for good, and junior Hannah Rush found classmate Leanna Tallamy for a layup that made it 60-57 with 2:18 to play.

After the Colonels cut the lead to one, senior Leeann Lanza grabbed an offensive rebound with 25.4 seconds to go; three Wilkes fouls later, Laney’s clutch free throws provided the final margin, the second coming after Heery called a timeout. One stop after that, the Mules were enjoying the taste of victory – and birthday cupcakes for Mitton.

“We play against a lot of people that we know in this conference,” said Laney, who finished with a team-high 18 points, five rebounds and two blocks. “But it’s special when you’re going up against an old teammate, especially one who’s now a coach! Kim knows everything about Muhlenberg basketball, but we know a bit about them too. Chris tried to ice me, but it feels great to make those free throws.”

Tallamy scored 13 points and junior Nicole Pepe added 11, nine of them coming on a trio of first-half three-pointers. Mitton chipped in with four points and seven rebounds in her seventh start, and Rush stuffed the stat sheet, producing a career-high-tying eight rebounds, six assists and three steals to go along with a three-pointer that pulled Muhlenberg into a 51-all tie with 6:17 left. Senior Colleen Caldwell also dished out six assists, including the 200th of her career.

Now comes the home stretch: Muhlenberg has three CC games remaining, all against teams with losing records, and holds a two-game lead on sixth-place Swarthmore for the final playoff spot.

“Even though this game doesn’t affect our conference record, it’s still nice to get a win and head into the last three games with some momentum,” Laney said.
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