ANNVILLE, Pa. — The 11th ranked Christopher Newport University Captains (28-3) earned a trip to their first-ever Elite Eight with an 80-76 win against ninth-ranked Kean (24-5) in the Sweet 16 on Friday night. Senior Chelsie Schweers led the way by scoring 35 points and becoming the NCAA’s second all-time leading scorer in Division III women’s basketball history with 2,800 career points.
With her third consecutive 30-point performance, Schweers passed Meegan Garrity from Clark College (Mass.), who was second with 2,793 points. Schweers also set a CNU program record for free throws and free throw percentage in an NCAA game, going 11 for 11 from the charity stripe vs. Kean.
Christopher Newport, in its third-ever appearance in an NCAA Sweet 16 game, advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time. CNU lost to Rochester last season and lost to Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 1992 before breaking through to the final eight this season.
The game was a battle from opening tip to the final buzzer, as two of the top teams in the country battled in a win-or-go home contest and it showed. The Captains held a dominant advantage early, as Schweers came out firing and led CNU to a 17-point lead with 10:21 remaining in the first half. The senior knocked down a 3 to put CNU up 26-9.
Kean, though, amped up the defensive pressure and took over the rest of the half. Led by stingy defense that turned CNU over 20 times in the first half, the Cougars dominated the remainder of the frame, outscoring the Captains 32-9 to take a five-point lead at intermission. Emily Cristaldi hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Kean its biggest lead of the game at 41-36.
Christopher Newport came out in the second half and put their turnover problems in the past. The Captains had just nine giveaways in the second half and the two teams teetered back and forth for much of the second 20 minutes. The Captains took the lead on a free throw by Tia Perry with 14:41 remaining. A pair of free throws from senior Jessica Moore and a 3-pointer from Schweers gave CNU its biggest advantage in the second half at six, 57-51.
But Kean kept battling and held CNU within two possessions the remainder of the game. CNU managed to keep the lead from the 14:13 mark all the way down to three minutes remaining, but Kean again came back to tie on a Tiffany Patrick layup with 3:03 remaining. After the key bucket, the NJAC Co-Player of the Year fouled out on the next possession and allowed Schweers to take the lead back with a pair of free throws.
Kean’s leading scorer, Naimoh Clemons answered with a layup, but CNU took the lead for good the next time down the floor. A pair of free throws from Moore with 1:23 remaining gave CNU a 77-76 lead. Then CNU came up with one of the biggest plays of the night by forcing a shot clock violation with 41 seconds on the clock.
Schweers was fouled and knocked down both free throws to give CNU a three-point edge and Kean was unable to score on the other end, and it was the rookie, Chantal Thomas that stepped in and grabbed the big defensive board. She was fouled and went to the line, hitting one of two with 14 seconds remaining to give CNU a two-possession lead and the final, 80-76.
The Captains turned the ball over a season-high 29 times in the game, but overcame the sloppiness with solid shooting, knocking down 53.3 percent of their shots on 24-of-45 shooting. The Captains also made a season-high 28 free throws, led by a perfect performance from senior leader Schweers and Moore. Schweers went 11-for-11 while Moore was 6-for-6. Junior Kimmy Hopkins was also 4-for-4 from the charity stripe.
Kean was led by Patrick, scoring 19 points with five boards. Angelica Bermudez contributed a double-double off the bench with 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Brittany Powell rounded out the double-figure scoring with 13.
Schweers led the way for CNU with 35 points, maintaining her tournament-best 35.0 points per game in NCAA games this year. She also had five steals, six rebounds and a pair of assists. Moore poured in 16 and three rebounds, while senior Barbara Davis added 12 and eight for the Captains.