ERIE, Pa. -– Senior Stephanie Michael scored the game-winning basket with 4.3 seconds left Saturday to lift the California (Pa.) women’s basketball team to an 81-79 win against sixth-seeded Glenville State in the second round of the NCAA tournament at the Hammermill Center.
With the victory, the seventh-seeded Vulcans improve to 22-8 this season and advance to face top-seeded and host Gannon, who posted a 64-46 victory against IUP on Saturday.
At 7 p.m. Monday, Cal U will be making its sixth all-time appearance, and first since 2009, in the regional championship. Meanwhile, Glenville State finishes the year with a 27-4 overall record after making its ninth appearance in the NCAA tournament since 2002. The Pioneers, who lead all NCAA divisions in scoring, were the regular-season champion in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC) and suffered two of their four losses against the Vulcans.
Michael finished with a team-high 23 points after shooting 8-of-14 from the floor, including five-of-seven from beyond the arc. She joined Lara Thornton (1990-94) as the only players in program history, and is one of only 16 players in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) history, with at least 200 three-pointers in a career (203). Michael tied her career high with 25 points Friday and has now posted eight games with at least 20 points this season after entering the year with a career high of 19 points.
Junior Elena Antonenko posted 16 points and a team-high nine rebounds, while sophomore Iraina Kukolj added 12 points, three rebounds and three assists. Fellow sophomores Emma Mahady and Chelsea McKnight both finished with nine points, while juniors Ryah Gadson and Kate Seebohm both collected five assists in the win.
Cal U raced out to a 9-0 lead in the first two minutes of the game before Glenville State scored seven of the next eight points to trim the deficit to 10-7 with 17:31 left in the first half. The Vulcans then scored seven unanswered points before stretching their lead to a game-high 15 points, 33-18, with 8:00 remaining in the half, as Glenville State was limited to just one field goal over nearly a six-minute span. The Pioneers later made three-pointers on three consecutive possessions to trim the deficit to 35-29 with 4:53 remaining before the Vulcans countered with an 8-2 run in just over 90 seconds to take a 43-31 lead at the 3:21-mark. Glenville State then twice cut the deficit to six points before Cal U took a 50-43 lead into halftime, as the trio of Antonenko, Kukolj and Michael scored 32 first-half points. The Pioneers were anchored in the first half with 21 points by junior Ginny Mills, who made first-half three-pointers.
In the opening three minutes of the second half, the Pioneers made it a one-possession game before Michael made a pair of three-pointers in less than 90 seconds to increase the lead to 58-51 at the 15:55-mark. Glenville State worked the deficit down to 60-58 before Cal U mounted a 10-3 run over three-plus minutes to take a 70-61 lead with 10:43 remaining. The Pioneers responded with a pair of three-point plays to cut the lead to 72-69 with 7:04 left to play. The teams traded points before Glenville State tied the game for the first time, 77-77, at the 2:05-mark. The Vulcans reclaimed the lead on the ensuing possession with a lay-up by Antonenko before the Pioneers tied the game on their next possession , with 1:17 remaining. Michael missed a three-pointer on the following possession and Glenville State had a chance to take its first lead of the game with 50 seconds left. However, Antonenko blocked a jumper and retrieved the rebound that led to Michael scoring the game-winning lay-up with 4.3 seconds remaining in regulation.
The Vulcans again shot over 50 percent in the first half and finished the game making 46.8 percent (18-of-32) from the floor. Cal U made 70.8 percent (17-of-24) from the free-throw line, including all six attempts in the second half. Meanwhile, the Pioneers shot at a 43.3 clip (26-of-60) from the floor and 50.0 percent (10-of-20) from three-point territory. Glenville State out-rebounded Cal U by a 43-33 margin, while the Vulcans scored 29 points off turnovers in the victory.
Mills, who leads the country in three-pointers per game, finished with a game-high 37 points after making 13-of-24 from the field, including 7-of-11 from beyond the arc. She also totaled a team-high seven rebounds and three steals in the losing effort. Senior guard Jelena Elez was the only other player for the Pioneers in double figures, finishing with 12 points on Saturday.
Cal U will be facing Gannon for the fourth time this season (1-3) and the third time at the Hammermill Center (0-3). The Vulcans and Golden Knights previoulsy met in the Sweet 16 of the 2009 NCAA Tournament with Cal U earning a 64-40 victory at Hamer Hall.