No player logged more than 22 minutes, nine players scored— only two of which reached double-figures—and a halfcourt shot at the first-half buzzer poured through the net like green beer in a St. Patrick’s Day mug.
All-in-all, it was a good start to the NCAA Atlantic Regional for the host Gannon University women Friday night at the Hammermill Center, as the Knights beat eighth-seeded Fairmont St. 66-40.
Gannon (29-4) spent the first eight minutes feeling out Fairmont St., but once the Knights found their legs, they put together a blitz midway through the first half that
Coach Cleve Wright said the Knights battled stayed positive in order to rip off 25 of 27 points after they struggled with turnovers and were down 7-5.
“We were continuing to tell ourselves ‘to keep your heads up,’” he said. “I thought we were getting good looks they just weren’t falling.”
Once they did, however, Gannon’s defense followed suit by swarming to the ball on every Fairmont State possession. The Knights forced 14 turnovers in the first half, as they held the Falcons scoreless for more than six minutes.
Even after Fairmont State (23-10) scored seven in a row in the final minute to whittle Gannon’s lead 30-16 with seconds left, Gannon’s Mollie Sebald chucked in a halfcourt shot at buzzer.
“I always end my practices with a halfcourt shot, so when I saw there was about four seconds left, I thought ‘alright, this is mine,’” said Sebald, who finished with 12 points off the bench.
Gannon managed to log playing time for every player as it outscored Fairmont St. 49-9 in bench points.
In her first game off the bench since late February, forward Nettie Blake led Gannon with 15 points in 17 minutes.
Blake noted how her freshmen teammates, who made key contributions, have grown.
“I have to give it to my younger teammates for how fast they’ve grown this season,” she said. “They’re no longer freshmen anymore.”
In other first-round action Friday, Glenville State defeated defending champion Shaw 111-86.
California (Pa.) upset second-seeded Edinboro 80-72. The Scots received a boost when their ailing All-PSAC forward, Samantha Blazetic, scored 11 points in 17 minutes off the bench in her first action since injuring her knee.
Gannon will play the winner of the Friday’s late game between Indiana (Pa.) and Bloomsburg in the Regional semifinals 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Glenville State and Cal will play in the other semifinal at 5 p.m.