Plenty for Women's Basketball to Celebrate

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Towards the end of the Muhlenberg women’s basketball team’s 68-34 victory over Dickinson, Emily Lesher swooped in to congratulate Maggie Zerbe on a made free throw, only to hit the brakes when the referee tossed the ball back to the freshman before she could get there. No harm done; the Mules had plenty of time – and reasons – to celebrate after the game.

Emily Lesher
In addition to her eight points, Lesher had two offensive rebounds, three assists and a block.
After all, Zerbe and fellow rookie Michelle Poole played the best games of their young careers, and junior Leanna Tallamy reached a milestone. More importantly, Muhlenberg (15-9, 11-6) clinched a Centennial Conference playoff berth for the ninth straight season.

To put the cherry on top, the Mules will start their postseason journey at home; they’ll be the fourth seed, and welcome either Gettysburg or Ursinus (Saturday’s Senior Day opponent) to Allentown for a first-round clash next Wednesday. Gettysburg holds a one-game advantage on the Bears with two to play.

“It feels great to clinch a home playoff game,” said junior Abby Stenger, who knocked down four threes for a game-high 12 points. “We’ve had some adversity this season, so this gives us some good momentum going into the game on Saturday. We just need to keep it going into the postseason.”

Muhlenberg wasted no time locking up another postseason bid. The Mules scored the first 14 points and led by as many as 37 in stifling the Red Devils (5-18, 1-16) for the second time in less than three weeks with one of their best defensive performances in recent years.

Michelle Poole
This layup by Poole with 5:11 to play came off of one of four assists by junior Laura Gregory.
To wit, Dickinson managed just 10 field goals on 21-percent shooting, committing 25 turnovers in the process. The Red Devils, who mustered just 35 points in the teams’ first meeting, scored only 13 points in the first half, the fewest Muhlenberg had allowed in a half since surrendering 11 against them two years ago. Coincidentally, the 34 points matched the fewest the Mules have allowed in a CC game since a 53-30 victory against Dickinson during the 2005-06 campaign.

The Mules were everywhere on defense, coming up with 14 steals and 11 blocks, just one shy of the single-game school record set during the 2011-12 season against Dickinson. Sophomore Christina Santone had four rejections (plus four points, three rebounds and three steals), and senior Leeann Lanza added two, moving her into a tie for third on the program’s all-time list.

“We’ve really been focusing on our zone, and for our particular team it really works,” Stenger said. “We feel great about our defense going into the playoffs, and tonight was another step forward.”

The Mules weren’t too shabby on offense either. Ten different players scored, led by Stenger. Senior Erin Laney reached double figures with 10 points and added six rebounds and three steals, while juniors Tallamy, Emily Lesher, Janelle Fleet and Nicole Pepe chipped in eight apiece. Poole netted a career-best six, while Zerbe made both of her free throws and grabbed a career-best seven rebounds off the bench. Tallamy, meanwhile, went over the 1,000-point mark for her collegiate career (475 at Gordon and 526 at Muhlenberg) on a layup midway through the first half. Muhlenberg took a 37-13 lead into intermission on the strength of 51-percent shooting and assisted on 14 of its first 16 buckets (23 of 29 for the game).

“So many people contributed tonight,” Stenger said. “The freshman were great, and across the board everyone played hard and loose. It was a lot of fun to see everyone do so well.”

Three straight victories in the books, the Mules hope to send their four senior captains off with one more regular-season win this weekend. Stenger and company, however, have no plans to stop there.

“Winning these last three and hopefully winning on Senior Day will give us the momentum we need,” Stenger said. “The first-round game will be tough, but we just have to keep working hard. Things are going really well for us right now, and we just want to see where that takes us.”
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