Women's Basketball Wins on Senior Day

Saturday, February 22, 2014 - page 2

women's basketball Senior Day In some ways, the Muhlenberg women’s basketball team’s game against Ursinus felt like the end. In one important way, the Mules’ 76-66 victory was only the beginning.

“It was sad,” junior Laura Gregory said of the emotional Senior Day ceremony. “We all had tears before the game, but we still have the playoffs. We just want to keep winning for them.”

Like so many in their four years at Muhlenberg, the final regular-season game in the careers of senior captains Colleen Caldwell, Erin Laney, Leeann Lanza and Katy Mitton ended on the right side of the ledger. With a remarkable record of 80-30 (.727), the 2013-14 class is the sixth-winningest in the history of the program. The mark the quartet has left off the courts is just as indelible.

“In high school I didn’t have that many upperclassmen to look up to,” Gregory said. “Since day one they’ve really taken me under their wing and taught me so much.”

Colleen Caldwell “This senior class has really taken it upon themselves to make us feel like we fit in,” added junior Hannah Rush, who dished out seven assists. “They always make sure we know we can come to them for anything, on and off the court. They’re such a huge part of the program, and it’s going to be a huge loss when they leave.”

The Mules hope that won’t be for some time. Muhlenberg (16-9, 12-6), which shot 60 percent from the field in winning its fourth straight game, will host Gettysburg in the first round of the Centennial Conference playoffs next Wednesday. Though their 12th straight victory over the Bears (11-13, 8-10) had no effect on the Mules’ postseason positioning, the senior foursome – honored before the game along with senior manager Morgan Duggan – had a big effect on making sure it ended on a high note.

Leeann Lanza Though injured and unable to play, Mitton was announced as a starter. Laney led all scorers with 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting and grabbed five rebounds. Caldwell (left) handed out five assists and came up with a career-high seven steals. And Lanza (right) contributed five rebounds, two blocks and two steals to go along with her 10 points, which included back-to-back baskets that gave the Mules a 67-59 lead with two minutes to play after the Bears had overcome a double-digit deficit early in the second half. The veterans got plenty of help from their understudies as well.

Junior Leanna Tallamy finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds for her seventh double-double of the season, and her three-point play with just under eight minutes to play staked Muhlenberg to a 60-54 advantage. Sophomore Christina Santone added eight points, while juniors Gregory, Stenger and Nicole Pepe chipped in six apiece, the latter two each draining a pair of threes.

Pepe’s second triple came at a critical juncture. After taking a 38-30 lead into intermission and scoring the first bucket of the second half, the Mules watched Ursinus rally back to forge a seventh tie at 50-all with 11:45 to play. After the teams traded baskets, Pepe’s right-wing trey off a pass from Laney gave Muhlenberg the lead for good at 55-52. Tallamy scored the team’s next five points, capped by her conventional three-point play. Ursinus never got closer than four the rest of the way.

“We wanted to win so badly for the seniors so badly today,” said Gregory. “We really don’t want them to have their last game.”

Now it’s on to the postseason, and a third matchup with the defending league champions. Muhlenberg and Gettysburg each won on its home court, an advantage the former will enjoy in the first-round clash. With two CC championships, two NCAA Tournament berths and a trip to the Sweet Sixteen under their belts, the Mule seniors are eager to add some more hardware to their collection. Their younger counterparts might be even more driven to keep the season going.

“We always say to play for each other, and today we really wanted to play for the seniors,” Rush said. “They’re the ones who started that motto, and we just want to keep it going for them. They deserve another championship.”
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