March 13, 2009

Courtesy Millersville Athletics

California, Pa. — Despite holding a lead at the half, the Millersville women's basketball team could not withstand a rally from the No. 4 seed Charleston, falling to the WVIAC Champions 59-49 in the first round of the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional and ending its season at 23-7 on Friday evening.

The Marauders (23-7) battled back and forth with the Golden Eagles (26-5) throughout the first 20 minutes, as Millersville was in search of its first NCAA Tournament win since 2002. MU was able to build a brief five point lead (14-9) with 12:29 to play in the half. Gladine St. Julien, Aiesha Bellamy, and Jenna Craig combined to do all the scoring for the Marauders in the opening 7:30.

Charleston responded with a 9-2 run over the next 7:13 to take an 18-16 lead. The drought of just one bucket in over seven minutes was foreshadowing for the Marauders undoing on this evening. Still, with plenty of time to play in the first half, Millersville responded. Bellamy and Craig put the Black and Gold back in front and a traditional 3-point play by St. Julien gave the No. 5 seed a 24-20 lead with 1:49 to play. Answering for the Golden Eagles was Kaitlyn Arick, who's 3-point bomb with 33 seconds remaining cut the MU lead to one, 24-23, at the break.

Surprisingly the Marauders only got scoring from the trio of St. Julien, Bellamy and Craig throughout the first 20 minutes. St. Julien had 10 at the break, while Bellamy chipped in eight, and Craig contributed six. Arick and leading-scorer Jihan Williams paced the Golden Eagles at the break with seven points a piece.

Millersville put itself in a position to pull the upset over Charleston with its play in the first half, but the second half did not start the way the Marauders had hoped. A Veronica Carman jumper put CU ahead, before MU knotted the game at 25 on a free throw by Bellamy. From that point, Millersville proceeded to miss its next seven shots, going scoreless for 5:26. The Golden Eagles, meanwhile, built a 34-25 lead.

Behind two buckets from Emily Balogh and a free throw from St. Julien, the Marauders climbed back to within four at 34-30, but Charleston quickly delivered some deflating blows. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Lindsey Kentner and Ali Tobias started a 12-0 run that pushed the Golden Eagles' lead to 16 with 9:32 remaining.

The Marauders cut the deficit to as little as six points with 1:37 to go, as CU tried to help Millersville's comeback bid by struggling at the line. Charleston shot just 52-percent (9-of-17) at the charity stripe on the evening. Even with CU allowing them to get back in the game, the Marauders could not get over the proverbial hump. Millersville missed its final five shots and turned the ball over twice on its last seven possessions as the successful season came to a disappointing end.

There were many positives to take from the 2008-09 season. The ladies shared the PSAC East title with West Chester, marking the second year in a row that Millersville has finished atop the conference. The 23 wins came within two of a program record and were the third most in a season in Millersville history. Gladine St. Julien surpassed 1,000 points for her career and moved into third on the single season scoring list with 449 points. 'G' also jumped up to 16th on Millersville's all-time scoring list, finishing her career with 1,021 points.

Still, Friday night marked a tough end to the Marauders' season and to St. Julien and Jenna Philo's careers at Millersville. St. Julien's 20 points led the way, as she was 7-of-17 from the floor, including two 3-pointers. Jenna Craig almost came through with her 15th double-double of the season, but came up just one point shy of that mark (9 points, 10 rebounds). Bellamy finished with 11 for the Marauders, who struggled offensively all night, shooting 3-of-18 from deep and 19-of-70 (27.1-percent) from the floor.

Williams, right on her average, led Charleston with 14 points and eight rebounds. Tobias finished with 13 and Arick had 10 for the Golden Eagles, who advanced to the round of 32 and will face the winner of No. 1 California (Pa.) vs. No. 8 District of Columbia tomorrow night at 8 p.m.