MEC Women's Basketball Semifinal Recaps
Glenville State 85, Notre Dame 69 | Final Stats
By Duane Cochran for MountainEast.org
WHEELING, W.Va. – Top-seeded and No. 1 ranked Glenville State had little trouble advancing to it fourth straight Mountain East Conference Women's Basketball Tournament championship game here Saturday afternoon against fifth-seeded Notre Dame College at WesBanco Arena.
The unbeaten Pioneers remained perfect on the season at 29-0 as they rolled to an 85-69 victory over the Falcons.
Glenville will face second-seeded Charleston (20-8) in Sunday's title game at 2 p.m. The Pioneers lost last year's tournament championship contest to the Golden Eagles, 87-80. UC earned a berth in the title contest by eliminating third-seeded West Liberty Saturday, 72-65.
As per usual Saturday, Glenville's relentless play on both ends of the floor allowed the Pioneers to take control of the contest early and open an eight-point lead after one quarter, extend it to 12 by halftime and have it reach as many as 25 late in the third before NDC mounted a furious rally in the final 10 minutes which closed the gap. The Pioneers had defeated NDC by margins of 65 and 42 during the regular season, but Saturday the Falcons put up a much better fight against the nation's top-ranked team.
“I think Notre Dame played really, really hard and really well,” said Glenville coach Kim Stephens. “That's a good basketball team. They've had a rough year. They've been up and down all year and have had a lot of changing lineups. I think they worked hard, played hard and were tough for us to guard.
“I think we got a little bit lax toward the end of the game. When Kaylee (Pierce) went down (an apparent knee injury with 8:19 to play) I think our focus went away. It's just more stuff that we can continue to improve on moving forward. I, as a coach, would rather have a game where we can get better going into a championship game as opposed to having a game where we really don't have anything to fix and I can go in the locker room and tell them they were great. Trust me, that did not happen today.”
Once again Glenville's balanced offensive attack was led by a quintet of double-figure scorers. First-team All-MEC honorees Re'Shawna Stone and Zakiyah Winfield paced the Pioneers with 18 points apiece, while Taychaun Hubbard chipped in 17 and Dazha Congleton and Kaylee Pierce both added 12 points. Winfield and Congleton both pulled down eight rebounds apiece to lead GSU on the glass.
“We didn't go off of anything we had done in the past against them,” Winfield said. “It's March so anything can happen. We were really relaxed coming in, but I don't think we played our best game today. I think we're a better team than how we performed and I know we're going to have to perform a lot better tomorrow if we're going to get the outcome we want.”
Notre Dame coach Imani Gordon says she was pleased with portions of her team's play, but noted that the Falcons had some lulls in the third quarter and too many turnovers in the contest against the pressure-oriented Pioneers' defense which led to GSU points. She was also frustrated with her team's inability to get some close shots in the paint to go down throughout the game.
“I think we showed good bits and pieces against the No. 1 team in the country, but we needed a better overall effort for 40 minutes today,” Gordan said. “The whole year we haven't been a big three-point shooting team so the 1-for-11 today from three I'm not really worried about. It's the layups, the bunnies and short jumpers that didn't drop that really hurt us. If we get half of those to drop it might have been a different game.”
Standout Notre Dame senior guard Jada Marone, who finished with a game-high 22 points and five rebounds, agrees.
“We played the No. 1 team in the country and we were down 23 or so at one time and we lost by 16,” Marone said. “The effort was there, like coach said, in bits in pieces. It needed to be more consistent.
“Before this game started I said we've got a great opportunity. I mean I wouldn't want to play any other team. You get to compete with the best of the best, the No. 1 team in the country so I'll take it.
“They did a good job of converting off of our misses, mistakes and turnovers. I think we did a good job with our half court defense against them. We slowed them down some, but just not enough.
“Basketball is a simple. You put the ball in the basket. They put it in more times than we did. We took 69 shot attempts and they had 65. They made one more basket than we did so then it comes down to assists, turnovers and free throws. They converted off of our turnovers and that was a big story in the ball game.”
Glenville outscored NDC 22-8 in points off of turnovers.
Lilee Carlson was the only Notre Dame player other than Marone to reach double figures in the scoring column. She finished with 17 points. Tamia Ridley had eight points and a game-high 11 rebounds for the Falcons.
Glenville State has won four of the previous eight MEC Tournament titles (2014, 2018, 2019, 2020).
“I personally have not won a championship game,” said GSU's Congleton. “I've been in them, but I have not won one. It would mean a lot to me to finally win one.”
Charleston 72, West Liberty 65 | Final Stats
By Shawn Rine for MountainEast.org
WHEELING, W.Va. -- Championship teams make the necessary plays when the chips are down. Charleston is no different, and because of that will play for a shot at a second consecutive MEC Tournament women’s basketball crown.
Behind 17 points each from Markyia McCormick and Trinity Palacio and some stingy defense, the second-seeded Golden Eagles (20-8) rallied from a 13-point deficit to knock off No. 3 West Liberty (21-9) in a semifinal matchup Saturday at WesBanco Arena. UC gets No. 1 seed and top-ranked Glenville, in a rematch of last season’s title game that was won by the former.
“I’m extremely proud of the way we played,’’ Charleston coach Tianni Kelly said. “First off we were 0-2 against them in the regular season so to come out and get that ‘W’ is big. But also the implications of the national tournament – they were ranked above us because of the head-to-head matchups.
“I think patience on offense and trying to take advantage of some of the mismatches was the difference.’’
Indeed it was.
West Liberty got off to a good start and led 19-13 after a quarter, thanks to a 9-0 run to close on a pair of Grace Faulk 3-pointers and another from Corrine Thomas. The lead grew to 13 on another bonus ball, this one off the left hand of Karly McCutcheon.
But by halftime the momentum had turned in UC’s favor. Suddenly those opens looks from 3 were not there for the Toppers, who held a 31-28 halftime advantage after the Golden Eagles finished on a 6-0 burst.
“I think it was attention to detail, and the other thing was doing a better job guarding the ball,” Kelly said. “Early on they were able to attack the rim and our rotations were a little late.
“(We) did a lot better job in the second half of moving our feet.”
When Palacio hit a pair of free throws to give Charleston a 35-34 upper hand, it never trailed again. There were two more ties, but West Liberty couldn’t get back on the plus-side of the scoreboard.
“I just thought we blew assignments, and I know that sounds like I’m being critical of our players … I’m not,” WLU head man Kyle Cooper said. “UC hunts matchups – that’s who they are. It was almost like watching UC team’s from back when I was with Coach (Lynn) Ullom.
“They make you make choices and I just felt like at times we didn’t make the right choices. The heart was there and we fought every single second, but they grind you down.”
A pivotal moment came during a third quarter in which UC outscored WLU, 25-12. A 43-39 lead mushroomed to eight as McCormick sandwiched a pair of 3-pointers – the second one from the left corner rolled around, kissed off the glass and went in – around two Faulk free throws.
It was a 10-point lead after three quarters and grew to 13 as Sierra Davis – 16 points – knocked down the last of her four 3-pointers to make it 58-45.
“(UC-WLU) games are big just because of the way their bigs guard,” Kelly said. “(Davis) can shoot the 3 so you can’t sit back on her, and if you put a guard on her she can score in the post.
“She’s a nightmare for bigs that don’t want to step out on the 3.”
The Hilltoppers had one final run in them, as it turns out.
A 7-0 blitz that culminated in a Faulk 3 – she finished with a team-high 18 points on 6 of 6 overall and 4 of 4 on 3-pointers – dwindled the deficit to three at 60-57. But that was as close as WLU got, as immediately after the Golden Eagles put the next six points on the scoreboard.
MEC Freshman of the Year Bailee Smith added 10 points for West Liberty, which saw Aundrey Tingle finish a stellar career with a 16-point, 11-rebound, seven-assist effort. A 1,000-point scorer, she came up two rebounds shy of 1,000 during her time on the hilltop.
“Beyond every triple-double, she’s good for our game and that’s the thing I’ll miss the most about her,” an emotional Cooper said. “She is the epitome of the word student-athlete, she handled everything with class and I’m forever in debt to her.
“She doesn’t have to take a backseat to anybody (in program history), and yet that is exactly what she did every day – she put everyone else first.’