First Round (at Westminster): #4 McDaniel d. #5 Dickinson,
Semifinal (at Allentown): #1 Muhlenberg d. #4 McDaniel, 67-51.
Semifinal (at Allentown): #3 Johns Hopkins d. #2 Franklin & Marshall, 75-58
Final (at Allentown): #1 Muhlenberg d. #3 Johns Hopkins, 76-55.
Nothing beats experience when it comes to the postseason.
Since this was their third time around, Muhlenberg women’s basketball seniors Erin McSherry and Kaitlin Strumph knew exactly how to prepare for the Centennial Conference championship game. So on the morning of the Mules’ encounter with Johns Hopkins, the two players made a run to the local store to buy red and gray tinsel.
Later that afternoon, all of their teammates, as well as the entire floor of Memorial Hall, was littered with the festive decoration as Muhlenberg celebrated its third CC championship in four years with a 76-55 win against Johns Hopkins.
The Mules’ 10th straight win made them the first team in CC history to win five titles and the first to go undefeated through a CC regular season and postseason. It also earned them an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s just a great culmination of our season,” said senior Lauren Boyle, part of a senior class (along with Bethany Enterline) that now has a four-year record of 90-20. “It could be my last game here, so it was nice to win like this. Twenty and oh in the conference is incredible.”
As it has done repeatedly throughout the year, Muhlenberg (24-3) displayed an ability to
win in a number of ways, whether it be with offense or defense, scoring inside or scoring outside, or with a player from Rockville Centre (Sheila Cook scoring 26 points in the semifinal win vs. McDaniel) or one from Rockville (Alexandra Chili scoring 23 points vs. Hopkins).
For the second day in a row, the Mules claimed an early lead and stayed comfortably ahead the entire game. Back-to-back three-pointers by Chili fueled an 11-0 run that put Muhlenberg on top 13-3 six minutes into the game. Chili scored 18 points in the first half, including a gorgeous spin move for a left-handed layup and three-point play that made the score 34-22 with two minutes left in the half.
Sophomore Kelly McKeon took over in the second half, scoring 17 of her 21 points to keep the Mules up by double digits. She also pulled down 12 rebounds in the game for her third straight double-double. Boyle added 15 points.
Muhlenberg held the Blue Jays (14-13) to 25-percent shooting in the second half en route to the 21-point margin of victory, the highest in the CC championship game since 2003.
“We were more pressured the last two games of the regular season,” said Boyle when asked about winning the tournament as the favorite. “Coach kept emphasizing that it was a two-game tournament, and we really felt we could win it.”