Jan. 16, 2010

Courtesy of Gannon

CLARION, Pa. - The Gannon women’s basketball team continues to pile up the statistics and records during arguably the best season in program history. The fourth-ranked Lady Knights shot 51.7 percent in the second half and pounded Clarion 55-30 on the boards en route to a 77-54 road victory Saturday afternoon.

In the process, Gannon won its 18th straight game to begin the season. It represents the best start in school history and broke the school record for consecutive wins regardless of the time during the season. The 1977-78 team previously held the record with 17 straight victories, before finishing 20-5.

Saturday’s verdict also represented the program’s 28th consecutive regular-season victory dating back to last season. The Lady Knights haven’t tasted defeat in the regular season since a 65-52 setback at Indiana (Pa.) January 24, 2009.

Gannon out-rebounded Clarion 31-16 in the first 20 minutes and went to halftime with a 39-26 lead. The Lady Knights ripped off seven consecutive points to assume a 15-7 advantage with 13:11 left in the half. Kristina Freeman (Yonkers, N.Y./Pelham Memorial) produced five of the seven points, including the last three when she converted a lay-up while being fouled.

A mini 6-0 run midway through the first half extended the Gannon lead to 23-11. The Lady Knights held the Golden Eagles scoreless for five minutes and six seconds while scoring three straight baskets. Gannon led by 16 points twice in the final two minutes, before settling for a 13-point halftime advantage.

Gannon’s lead remained between eight and 13 points for the first 14 minutes of the second half, before the Lady Knights finally put the game away. Head coach Cleve Wright’s squad ended the contest with a 19-6 run over the final 6:47.

Five different players scored during the game-clinching run. Freeman netted eight of the 19 points. Brittany Powell (Copley, Ohio/Copley) saw her first action of the season, scoring her first career points on a three-pointer with 27 seconds left in regulation.

Freeman led all scorers with 27 points, seven rebounds, five steals, two assists and two blocks. The senior guard was nearly perfect from the floor, hitting 10-of-13 overall shots and 2-of-3 three-point attempts. Her 27 points equaled her second-highest total of the season and were four points shy of her career-high.

Kim Vargas (Sterling Va./Broad Run) added 15 points and five rebounds. Julie Kleber (Suffern, N.Y./Suffern) chipped in 11 points off the bench. Shanna Thompson (Shaker Heights, Ohio/Shaker Heights) had nine points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench.

Gannon shot 46.2 percent (30-65) from the field, 35 percent (7-20) from three-point range and 55.6 percent (10-18) from the free throw line.

Bethany Koch led the Clarion attack with 19 points despite hitting only 8-of-23 shots. Lizzie Suwala was the only other Golden Eagle in double digits with 13 points.

Clarion shot 31.7 percent (20-63) from the floor, 16.7 percent (3-18) from behind the arc and 73.3 percent (11-15) from the charity stripe.

Gannon improved to 18-0 overall and 2-0 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Western Division while winning its fifth consecutive game against Clarion. The Golden Eagles dropped to 9-6 overall and 0-2 in conference play. The Lady Knights return to action Wednesday, January 20 at Slippery Rock. Game time is scheduled for 6 p.m.