March 7, 2009

St. Louis, Mo., March 7, 2009 –The No. 5 Washington University women’s basketball team earned a spot in the 2009 NCAA Division III Tournament sectional semifinals with a 83-57 win over Transylvania University in the regional final on Saturday, March 7, at the WU Field House in St. Louis, Mo.

Washington University (23-4) will face the College of St. Benedict in the NCAA sectional semifinals on Friday, March 13, at a site that will be determined by the NCAA on Sunday, March 8. With the win on Saturday, Washington U., who is making its NCAA-record 20th-consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament, improved to 46-17 all-time in postseason play and 19-5 in tournament games played in the WU Field House. The Bears will make the 12th NCAA sectional appearance in school history, and their first since 2007, when they finished as the NCAA runner-up.

Washington U. got off to a hot shooting start in the first half against Transylvania (23-6), taking a 7-2 lead less than three minutes into the game as sophomore Alex Hoover found junior Janice Evans for an elbow jumper. Transylvania responded with a 9-5 scoring stretch over the next three minutes to pull within one point, 12-11.

With the Bears in danger of losing the lead for the first time in the game, junior Zoë Unruh drained a three-pointer to put her team up by four points, and ignite what turned into a 10-2 scoring run that was capped off by another three-pointer, this time from senior Halsey Ward.

A three-point play by Holly Milburn at the 10:36 mark briefly brought the Pioneer deficit under 10 points, but it was the last time Transylvania would trail by fewer than double digits for the rest of the game. Freshman Dani Hoover and senior Shanna-Lei Dacanay scored lay-ups on back-to-back possessions for Washington U. and begin a 17-2 run that ended on a three from senior Jill Brandt, giving the Red and Green a 23-point lead, their largest of the half.

"I’m very proud that the kids came out and played with that kind of intensity," said Washington University head coach Nancy Fahey. "Playing such a tight and emotional game yesterday is tough and I was happy to seem them come out with the focus they did tonight."

Sophomore Kathryn Berger led all scorers with 14 first-half points, shooting 4-of-5 from the field and 6-of-8 from the free-throw line. Washington U. tallied 13 assists to just three turnovers in the first period and held a 10-2 advantage in points off turnovers and a 30-2 margin in bench points. Kelsey McCarty scored 10 points to pace the Pioneers.

"My teammates were getting me the ball tonight and that is something that has happened for us all year, someone is having success and we get them the ball," Berger said. "We are very unselfish and it is great to be on a team that is like that."

Baskets from Dacanay and senior Jaimie McFarlin a little over five minutes into the second half pushed the Washington U. advantage to 27 points before Transylvania put together a scoring run to pull back within 18 points. The Pioneers outscored WU 14-5 over the next seven and a half minutes of action and were down by just 18 points thanks to a Brittany Henderlight three-point play.

But Washington U. scored 15 of the game’s final 22 points to secure the 26-point win. Berger finished with a game-high 18 points, one off her career high of 19 set earlier this year. With 12 points and a pair of three-pointers, Unruh also finished in double figures for the Red and Green and Alex Hoover tallied six assists with no turnovers to pace the WU offense.

The Bears, who lead NCAA Division III in assist-to-turnover ratio with a mark of 1.3, finished Saturday’s game with 24 assists and 14 turnovers. Henderlight, McCarty and Jackie Distler each scored 10 points for Transylvania.

"It means a lot to make it to the sectional this year, especially for the seniors that were in the Final Four two years ago, we want to get back," Brandt said. "We know how it feels and we know what it takes to get there and we are playing like we are determined to get there and we won’t be denied."