Shaw bounces Knights in second round

After making a statement in the opening round of the NCAA Atlantic Regional tournament with a win over Johnson C. Smith University, the Gannon University women’s basketball team fell just short of advancing to the regional championship in the waning seconds against Shaw University.

For the second straight year, Shaw went on to take home the NCAA Atlantic Regional title after defeating nationally ranked Edinboro University and will advance to the Elite 8.

The semifinal matchup between the Knights and the Bears that took place on Saturday went down to the wire, with the decisive shot coming from Shaw with just 27 seconds remaining en route to the 64-59 win.

Gannon had advanced to the semifinal game after defeating Johnson C. Smith Friday by a score of 61-50.

Coach Cleve Wright said Shaw’s game-winning shot, sunk by Brittney Spencer, was a tough one to make.

“We defended well, but she hit the floater,” he said. “It was a very, very difficult shot.”

Though the outcome was not what the Knights had hoped for, Wright said he was proud of the way they came out and fought in the second half after trailing 30-24 going into the lockerroom.

“We dug ourselves a little bit of a hole, but we showed a lot of heart, a lot of guts,” he said.

Senior guard Caitlyn Lowe said she thought the team fought back after being behind the entire first half.

“When our backs were against the wall, we kept plugging away,” she said. “This team has so much heart and it showed in the Shaw game and every game we played this year.”

Lowe, whose Gannon career has ended, said she’s proud of how her younger teammates bought into the program.

“We accomplished what so many people didn’t expect,” she said. “With nine underclassmen, we grew up fast.”

Wright also said the freshmen matured a lot this season.

“They had the opportunity to play in the national tournament,” he said. “It was a very good start to many of their careers, to get this kind of experience early and to use it as motivation. Our team has the belief that they could have went even further this year.”

According to Wright, this expectation is part of the culture of the program.

“We have high expectations, and that requires a lot of commitment, work and dedication,” he said. “Those things have to be there.”

Wright said that while this year’s underclassmen are the future of the program for the next several years, the two seniors, Lowe and forward Becky Innes, left indelible marks that have set the bar for their younger teammates.

“Caitlyn and Becky have shown our players what it means to be loyal to a program, and what it means to be a good teammate, and the dedication that it takes,” he said. “They’ve been very strong, positive representatives of our program, and now they move on to a different part of our family called alumni.”

Lowe said that the team chemistry was a key contributing factor to Gannon’s overall successes.

“We weren’t playing for individuals, we were playing for each other,” she said. “I think that’s important every year and with a handful of freshmen coming in again next year, they will need to rebuild that team chemistry.”

The Knights now enter the offseason, and according to Wright, this will be the time to make improvements.

“I thought our defense really got better, I thought we played two very strong teams in the NCAA tournament and had strong games against them,” he said. “But we still have a lot of plans for next year, and it’ll have to happen through hard work in the offseason.”



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