Mules Hold Off Moser, Bullets for CC Title

First Round (at Gettysburg): #4 Gettysburg d. #5 McDaniel, 79-71.
Semifinal (at Lancaster): #2 Muhlenberg d. #3 Dickinson, 54-47.
Semifinal (at Lancaster): #4 Gettysburg d. #1 Franklin & Marshall, 75-70.
Final (at Lancaster): #2 Muhlenberg d. #4 Gettysburg, 80-65.

In a year when Muhlenberg is holding a contest to determine the top women’s team in its first 50 years of coeducation, the 2008 women’s basketball team took the early lead as the top squad of the second 50 years.

The Mules defeated Gettysburg, 80-65, at Franklin & Marshall to win their second Centennial Conference championship in three years. The victory earns Muhlenberg (21-6) an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championships. Pairings and sites will be announced Monday morning.

The title was the fourth overall for the Mules, putting them in a tie with Johns Hopkins for the most in CC history.

A day after being held to 14 first-half points by the denial defense of Dickinson, Muhlenberg had to be thrilled to see the Bullets (18-10) look to push the ball at every opportunity.

“The fast pace was definitely to our advantage,” said senior Michelle Feldman, who hit a 3-pointer to open the scoring and tied her season high of nine points. “That’s the way we like to play – up-tempo. Hitting our first few shots gave us the confidence to keep going.”

Without defenders hanging all over them, the Mules passed the ball crisply on offense and didn’t rush their shots. The result was 61.3-percent shooting from the field in the first half and 50 points – 18 more than they scored in the first half of their last two games combined.

Muhlenberg never trailed in the game, but Gettysburg was hanging close at 36-31 with 3:25 to go in the half before the Mules closed it out with a 14-0 run. Sophomores Alexis Bates and Kaitlyn O’Malley scored five points apiece in the run, while junior Lauren Boyle did a little bit of everything, contributing two points, two assists, a rebound and a blocked shot.

The result was never in doubt in the second half, as Muhlenberg never let its advantage slip below 14 points. The Mules’ 80 points were just two short of the CC title game record, and whereas the Bullets had two players combine for 53 of their 65 points, Muhlenberg’s offense was more of a team effort. Boyle scored 22 points, freshman Kelly McKeon added 16, and Feldman and O’Malley chipped in with nine each. Freshman Sheila Cook finished with eight points and seven rebounds.

The championship capped a Centennial Conference season that began under a cloud of doubt when the Mules lost to the same Gettysburg team in their first league game, back on Nov. 20.

“When we went on that long away stretch, that’s when we realized how good we could be,” said Feldman, referring two a span in which Muhlenberg played nine of 11 on the road, beginning – fittingly – with a win at Gettysburg. “We beat Hopkins at Hopkins, and we beat Ursinus at Ursinus, and we beat McDaniel at McDaniel. A light bulb kind of went off – if you can go on the road and beat those kind of teams, then we knew we could have a special season.”

A special season that isn’t over just yet.