March 7, 2009

Courtesy Eastern Connecticut State

GRANTHAM, Pa. - The Messiah College women's basketball team advanced all the way to the national championship game in last year's NCAA Division III tournament. Friday night, the Falcons flexed their muscle in the opening round of the tournament, breezing to an 81-46 victory over Eastern Connecticut State University at Brubaker Auditorium.

In its 12th NCAA tournament appearance, Eastern (25-4) missed six shots and turned the ball over three times on its first nine possessions in digging an 11-0 hole over the first four minutes. Leading 17-8, Messiah (23-4) held Eastern without a point over the next ten minutes, scoring 24 of its own on the way to a 29-point, 41-12 halftime lead.

Messiah, which won its NCAA opening game for the fifth straight season, meets Thomas More College in Saturday's 7 p.m. regional title game. Thomas More defeated Randolph-Macon College, 76-61, in Friday's first semifinal.

In the first half, Messiah shot 54.8 percent from the floor and held the Warriors to 18.8 shooting. Eastern scored its least number of points in a game this year and allowed the most and recorded its worst shooting percentage (29.8). The Falcons are ranked third nationally in field goal percentage, fifth in scoring defense, and seventh in scoring margin.

The 35-point loss is Eastern's second-worst in NCAA tournament history behind a 36-point loss to the University of St. Thomas (MN) in the 1991 NCAA Division III national semifinals.

Katie Kalb led five Messiah double-digit scorers with 18 points, while Ashley Brooks had 16. The pair combined to sink 13 of 28 field goals and combined on six three-point field goals.

In the final games of their four-year careers, forward Ashley McFetridge (Canton) had 13 points and a game-high seven rebounds and guard Christina Amato (Marlboro, MA) had ten points.

The Warriors won a program-record 16 straight games this year and won their most regular-season games (23) ever before ending the season with two straight losses.