Scots exit early from Regional tourney

Category:  Sports
Wednesday, March 20th, 2019 at 6:49 PM
Scots exit early from Regional tourney by Christopher Rosato Jr. & Madi Gross
Photo: Madi Gross

The Edinboro women’s basketball 2018-19 season came to an end Friday when they fell to Virginia Union University, 83-71, in the first round of the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional Tournament.

The team left Wednesday for Glenville, West Virginia, earning the tournament bid despite getting knocked out in the first round of the PSAC Tournament over spring break (they lost to Gannon). The Fighting Scots end the season 20-9 overall and 15-6 in the PSAC.

Head Women’s Basketball Coach Callie Wheeler praised her team for playing with heart and refusing to give up despite trailing for most of the Virginia Union (VU) game. “[I’m] really proud of my team,” Wheeler said after the loss. “I think that they fought for 40 minutes, and they didn’t give up.”

An early 9-0 run from VU was halted by a Michelle Jahn 3-pointer. The Edinboro senior would hit the shot with 5:58 left in the first.
Michaela Barnes was the next Fighting Scot to score, this time at the line. After hitting one of her two free throws, the score sat at 11-4 with a little over five minutes to go.

Jahn would be the Fighting Scots’ second-highest scorer of the game with a total of 15 points. The senior also grabbed six rebounds. Barnes would end with 14 points, as did redshirt senior Ciara Rosten.

Rosten would hit a layup in the first, while less than a minute later, Bridgette Shaffer — a Fighting Scot who is no stranger behind the arc — hit a 3-pointer to bring the deficit to 13-9. Shaffer would be the top scorer for the Fighting Scots that afternoon with 16. “I thought Bridgette did a phenomenal job finding her range early and caught rhythm,” Wheeler said.

Shaffer converted another 3-point shot with 2:17 left on the clock for the quarter. This would begin the Fighting Scots’ late quarter run. After points from senior Allison Thompson and another 3-pointer from Shaffer, ‘Boro would be leading 17-15 at the end of the quarter.

The members of the Fighting Scots’ Fab Four (Jontay Walton, Jahn, Barnes and Rosten) all scored in the first five minutes of the second quarter, but Virginia Union was able to keep up, regaining the lead 31-26 as the clock hit five minutes left. Another 3-pointer from Shaffer closed the gap with three minutes to go, but VU was able to maintain their lead until the end of the first half, holding 39-29.

Heading into the game, Edinboro’s defense was focused on VU’s Shareka McNeill, who already has 1,000 career points despite being just a sophomore. In response, the Lady Panthers called on senior Rejoice Spivey, who holds the school record in career assists, to take on a more proactive role. She finished the first half leading VU in scoring with 11 points.

“She’s so unselfish that she could play like this all the time [and] she doesn’t,” Virginia Union Women’s Basketball Head Coach AnnMarie Gilbert said after the win. “But today, when we needed her, she did.”

The first minute of the third quarter remained scoreless until a shot at the line put Virginia Union up by 11. Edinboro was able to slowly close the gap throughout the quarter.

A 3-pointer from Walton with 5:04 left on the clock closed the gap to 46-41. Unfortunately, VU would go on another run, pushing the lead back to 13.

Going into the fourth, Virginia Union led 63-52, but Edinboro stayed in it, chipping away at the gap with points from Jahn and Rosten.
With 39 seconds left on the clock, a layup from Rosten closed the deficit to a 10-point lead, but it was too late. Edinboro was forced to foul the Lady Panthers to help preserve time, but Spivey went 4-for-4 on her final free throws to push their lead to 12 points to end the game.

Spivey finished with 27 points and 4 assists ­— both leading the team — and 7 rebounds in the effort. She was responsible for a greater portion of the offensive performance after teammate Nicole Floyd — who had 7 points — suffered an injury in the final seconds of the first half. McNeill was the only other Lady Panther in double digits with 17 points.

“You have to tip your hat off to...Spivey. I mean, she had a miraculous performance out there,” Wheeler said. “For a girl who’s not one of their main scorers, and one of their top players goes down, and she goes for 27 [points]. That’s unbelievable. And that’s what happens. This is March Madness and that’s part of the madness. A player like that has a heroic performance.”

The loss brought Wheeler’s first season at the helm to an end. The team’s 20 wins marked the ninth consecutive year reaching that total and 10th straight year appearing in the PSAC Tournament. This was Edinboro’s 11th trip to the regional tournament and second straight.

“Coming in, I told the girls: ‘We’re the underdog. We’re not supposed to win,’” Wheeler explained. “But I told them to enjoy the moment, embrace it. This is something that only 64 teams get the opportunity to do, and I wanted them to really have fun and enjoy it.”

The Fighting Scots will lose Fab Four members Walton, Jahn and Rosten, with Michaela Barnes the lone returner of the group. They will also lose Allison Thompson, who contributed 4 points, 3 rebounds and a pair of assists.

Jahn was named a recipient of an NCAA Division II Degree-Completion Award, which provides financial assistance to athletes who run out of athletic eligibility and which helps them finish their first undergraduate degree.

“I mean, I’m just really happy that I stayed here for school,” Jahn said, reflecting on her career following the game. “I’m a hometown girl, and I couldn’t have had a better experience here.”

The Fighting Scots will return next season.

Madi Gross | sports.spectator@gmail.com
Christopher Rosato Jr. | sport.spectator@gmail.com

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