ANNVILLE, Pa. — The 11th ranked Christopher Newport Captains escaped 16th ranked Lebanon Valley (28-3) on their home floor, taking a 62-50 victory to win the school’s first ever basketball regional championship and advance to the Division III Final Four. Christopher Newport improved to 29-3 overall this season and will face No. 2 Amherst (30-1) on the campus of Illinois Wesleyan College on Friday, March 18.
Chelsie Schweers led the way again for CNU, scoring 27 points including what was arguably the biggest of her 411 career 3-pointers with 5:41 remaining in the game to give CNU a momentum-shifting, five-point lead late.
The Captains led by as many as 18 in the first half in front of Lebanon Valley’s third largest crowd in building history, 1,592 fans. CNU jumped out to the big lead behind Schweers’ hot shooting, as the senior totaled 20 points in the first half. The Captains shot nearly 50 percent in the first half and took a 11-point lead into the break at 35-24.
In the second half, the Dutchmen, who are one of the nation’s top defensive teams, amped up the pressure and forced the Captains into a lull. For over 10 minutes between the first and second half, the Captains were held to just five points on one made basket. Suzie Noyes jumper with 14:57 remaining wrapped up a 16-5 run that got the home team back in the game and back down just seven at 37-30.
The teams would trade baskets for several minutes before Lebanon Valley again made a small run to get within three on a layup from two-time conference Player of the Year Andrea Hoover with 10:24 remaining. It was one of just two buckets made by Hoover, who was coming off a near triple-double in the second round. Then, just under four minutes later, reserve Tierney Hiltz knocked down a long 3 from the right wing that got the Dutchmen as close as they had been since the opening tip at 47-45 with 6:46 remaining.
That set up the dramatic trey from Division III’s all-time leader in 3-pointers, as Schweers got a screen from Lauren Gural and knocked down a step-back 3 two steps back of the arc at the top of the key. The jumper from downtown gave CNU the two-possession lead, one that they would never relinquish.
Seniors Jessica Moore and Barbara Davis took Schweers’ cue and knocked down clutch baskets on the Captains next two possessions, and Schweers added a pair of free throws to get CNU the double-digit lead back with 3:39 remaining.
CNU held Lebanon Valley to just two made baskets in the final 6:45 of the game, including a layup with just seconds remaining. The defense stepped up when Coach Hunter and the Captains needed it, and ended the game holding the Dutchmen to just 36.7 percent shooting on 22-of-60 attempts.
The Captains will now advance to the Final Four for the first time in CNU basketball history – men’s or women’s. The only other CNU programs to reach the national semifinals have been the baseball and softball team.