Gannon prepares for the dance

Gannon+prepares+for+the+dance

The Gannon University women’s basketball team secured its sixth NCAA Division II tournament berth in seven years Sunday, earning the No. 6 seed in the Atlantic region.

The Knights (21-7) will face the No. 3 seed in the region, fellow PSAC member Bloomsburg University (24-4), at noon Friday at California University of Pennsylvania.

Senior guard Brittany Batts said she was excited to be able to play in her fourth straight NCAA tournament.

“The seniors and I talk quite a bit about how we want to leave a mark,” Batts said. “As freshmen all of us came and had to learn very quickly and adapt to college basketball.

“We are thrilled to have surpassed the 100-win mark and hope to add six more to that before the season is finished.”

The Knights won their last five games of the regular season and defeated Slippery Rock in the first round of the PSAC tournament before falling to eventual PSAC champion and region No. 1 seed California, 66-53, in the PSAC quarterfinals.

Bloomsburg is ranked No. 12 in the nation, and was defeated by California in the PSAC championship. The Huskies are led by PSAC East athlete of the year Marla Simmons, who is averaging 14 points, six rebounds and three assists per game.

Bloomsburg also sports the PSAC East coach of the year in Bill Cleary and PSAC East freshman of the year Camden Boehner.

Gannon did not face Bloomsburg this year, but did defeat the Huskies during the 2013-14 season 65-63 at Bloomsburg.

Regardless of the opponent, Gannon senior forward Mollie Sebald said she is not taking her fourth tournament appearance for granted.

“It’s a great accomplishment for all 64 teams that make the tournament,” she said. “A lot of teams would trade anything to be in our shoes.

“As seniors, we have been here before, and have some business to settle.”

Fellow senior Nettie Blake earned a spot on the All-PSAC West first team for the second year in a row with averages of 13.6 points and a conference-leading 10.9 rebounds per game.

Blake also is averaging just under one steal and one block per game. The senior forward notched 12 double-doubles on the year, bringing her career total to 31.

Blake also ranks among the top 10 all-time at Gannon in rebounds, points, field goals, blocked shots, field-goal percentage and games played. She’s ranked third in rebounds (1,023) and her 305 rebounds this year was the fourth-highest single-season total in school history.

Blake and Co. will be heading to an Atlantic region that will look quite familiar, as it will feature five teams from the PSAC — No. 1 seed Cal, No. 2 seed Indiana University of Pennsylvania, No. 3 seed Bloomsburg, No. 4 seed Westchester and No. 6 seed Gannon.

Friday’s regionals are divided into two sessions at California, with Bloomsburg and Gannon facing off at noon, followed by Indiana University of Pennsylvania (25-3) against Shepard (21-9).

The second session is kicked off by California (26-4) and eighth-seeded Virginia State (19-9) at 6 p.m. followed by West Chester (24-5) squaring off against fifth-seeded West Liberty (23-8) at 8:30 p.m.

The semifinal games will be at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, with the regional championship at 7 p.m. Monday.

Batts said that she isn’t ready to watch her collegiate basketball come to an end Friday.

“I love lacing up with these girls and want to have quite a bit of basketball left to play,” she said.

The NCAA Division II women’s tournament bracket can be accessed at www.ncaa.com.

MAX SENG

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