Edinboro's chase for PSAC crown ends with Gannon loss

Category:  Sports
Friday, March 6th, 2020 at 2:55 PM

“It’s the best rivalry in the PSAC,” said senior Michaela Barnes on Edinboro and Gannon facing each other.  

The Edinboro women’s basketball team lost to Gannon University Wednesday night, 67-53, eliminating them from the PSAC tournament. The Scots played in front of a raucous Hammermill Center crowd, unable to get the win and advance on what was a record-breaking night for multiple players.

The game got off to a fast start, as both teams brought the energy they displayed in pregame warm-ups into the contest. Perhaps because of the gravity of the game, or simply because of the sheer noise level in the arena, both team’s intros and pregame huddles were incredibly impassioned. Gannon won the opening tip and ultimately struck first thanks to a 3-pointer from junior guard Sydney Mitchell. Barnes, the all-time leading scorer in Fighting Scots history, would answer right back with a deep three of her own, and the back and forth affair was underway.  

The first quarter was fast paced for both teams, as they seemed to feel each other out the way boxers do in the early rounds of a title fight. Few points were scored, and multiple turnovers were committed by both sides. Play was stopped for roughly five minutes when one Gannon player, starter Chelsea Rourke, took a hard hit to the face while driving the lane. She would not return due to injury.  

Edinboro had an 11-7 lead after the first quarter, thanks to the blanketing defense provided by sophomore Monica Brown and freshman Rana ElhusseiniElhusseini would finish with eight points, five rebounds, three assists and one steal. She would not only stuff the stat sheet, she would lead on the court through emotion.  

“This is a tough environment for a freshman to come in and make plays and put up numbers,” Head Coach Callie Wheeler said of her point guard. “Some people think her emotion is a negative, but I think it’s a positive. She wants to win more than anything and it shows.” 

Wheeler’s assessment that it was a tough place to play was correct, as large numbers of fans from both teams made their presence known. Each possession felt as though the game were on the line, and the crowd responded each time a basket was made or a whistle was blown. The crowd worked to Gannon’s advantage in the second quarter, as they were able to tie the game at 17-17 with just under five minutes remaining. Edinboro and Gannon would trade blows until halftime, where Gannon would take a 31-26 advantage into break.  

While any coach is thrilled to have a freshman like Elhusseini contributing, every coach knows in a game like this, you need seniors to lean on. Thankfully for Wheeler, she has two of the best in the PSAC. Barnes and Bridgette Shaffer left their mark on this game early and often. In the second quarter, Barnes not only eclipsed the 2,000 career point mark, she also became Edinboro’s — men’s and women’s – all-time leading scorer.  

“She has such a tremendous impact,” Wheeler said. “She’s such a role model on and off the court. It’s going to be incredibly difficult to replace her.” 

 “Playing with her has been so special,” Shaffer said. “I’m going to miss it a lot.” 

The Fighting Scots came out of the locker rooms at halftime cold, not getting on the board until Shaffer knocked down her second shot from beyond the arc nearly three minutes into the third. The Golden Knights would keep Edinboro at an arm’s length for the remainder of the quarter, not letting them get closer than seven. Gannon led the Scots, 47-39, at the end of three.  

“We stopped executing and it was hard to hear; I think our emotions started to take over,” said Wheeler. “We didn’t make shots (in the third quarter) and they did. We needed to be disciplined and run our sets. And I think that was a huge turning point in this game.” 

We couldn’t make shots,” Shaffer said. “We weren’t moving the ball like we know we can.” 

However, Edinboro was not going to lay down and die. Gannon had extended the lead to 11, 50-39, early in the fourth when the Fighting Scots came roaring back. With both teams using full-court press defenses, Edinboro’s proved more successful and lead to five consecutive points from Shaffer, including her third 3-pointer on the night. That three was Shaffer’s 89th on the year, which broke the Edinboro single-season record for most made 3-pointers in a season.  

“I always tell her (Shaffer) she’s the best shooter in the PSAC,” Barnes said. “It’s really amazing. We both worked so hard. Bridgette is an absolutely amazing player.” 

Edinboro would pull within eight, 58-50, with just under two and a half minutes remaining in the game. Unfortunately for the Scots, that would be as close as they would get, as Gannon would score the final nine points of the night until an Elhusseini three in the waning seconds of the game 

Barnes would finish the night with 26 points on 7-19 shooting. Shaffer would add 13 and seven rebounds. Senior Cheniya Sharpe would add three points and five boards, and Brown would add three points of her own.  

As Edinboro’s PSAC hopes came to an end, it’s a bittersweet end for this team. 

“I told them in my post-game speech how special they are and how far they’ve come,” Wheeler said. “That means so much to me from a coaching standpoint. The winning and losing is transactional. But they way they transformed this season, I’ll remember that for the rest of my life.” 

“Coming into this season, being so inexperienced, nobody thought we would be in this position,” Barnes said. “It goes to show how much heart this team has. This is the most loving and supportive team I’ve ever been on.” 

It was a hard-fought loss for the Scots, but one they can be proud of. Not only were they the lower seed, but they had to play against an opponent that won 22 games in the regular season. Factor that in with the tough road environment, and sometimes games break that way.  

“It just wasn’t our night,” Shaffer said. “It wasn’t meant to be. But it was definitely exciting.” 

The Scots will lose their record-breaking seniors, but there is optimism looking forward based on the play of underclassmen like Elhusseini, Brown and Emma ElashUndoubtedly, there is good reason to expect the Fighting Scots to be back in this same position next season.

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