March 13, 2009

Courtesy of Gannon Athletics

CALIFORNIA, Pa. - The Gannon women’s basketball team is in the NCAA Division II Tournament field of 32 for the second time in the last three seasons. Post players Brittany Tabron (Canton, Ohio/Canton Central Catholic) and Kim Vargas (Sterling, Va./Broad Run) combined to record 32 points and 22 rebounds as the Lady Knights rolled past Fayetteville State 68-53 Friday afternoon in the opening game of the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional hosted by California (Pa.).

The verdict marked Gannon’s third NCAA victory in program history. It also marked Gannon’s largest margin of victory during an NCAA Tournament game. The Lady Knights previously posted first-round victories against Northern Kentucky in 2001 (73-64) and Grand Valley State in 2007 (66-59).

Gannon and Fayetteville State both played the first half like two boxers finding themselves around the ring in the first round. Both had five-point leads at one point of the first half, but neither could extend their advantage past five. Gannon led 29-24, before Fayetteville State tied the game at 31 with a 7-2 run. Danielle Russell’s three-pointer with 22 seconds left tied the game. Vargas then converted a lay-up with 11 ticks showing on the clock to send the Lady Knights into halftime with a 33-31 advantage.

The contest remained tight until Gannon blew the game wide open midway through the second half. Trailing 46-45, the Lady Knights exploded with 12 consecutive points over a span of four minutes and 32 seconds to assume a 57-46 lead. Four different players scored during the run, capped by Carrie Nolan’s (Girard, Pa./Girard) triple with 6:55 to play.

Gannon extended its lead to 66-51 with 2:30 showing on the clock after another three-pointer and lay-up from Nolan. The junior guard then drained two free throws with 48 seconds left to account for the final 68-53 victory.

Tabron led the offensive unit with her 16th career double-double, posting 17 points and 11 rebounds. Vargas recorded 15 points and nine rebounds off the bench, hitting 7-of-11 shots. Nolan and Kristina Freeman (Yonkers, N.Y./Pelham Memorial) chipped in 13 and 11 points, respectively. Nolan hit two three-pointers to extend her streak of consecutive games with a triple to 30.

Gannon shot 37.5 percent (24-64) from the field, 22.7 percent (5-22) from three-point range, and 83.3 percent (15-18) from the free throw line.

Chelsea Jeter headlined the Fayetteville State attack with 14 points. Danielle Russell posted 11 points while Erica Gilley added 10 markers off the bench.

Fayetteville State shot 26.7 percent (16-60) from the floor, 11.1 percent (1-9) from behind the arc, and 58.8 percent (20-34) from the charity stripe.

Gannon improved to 25-4 with Friday’s first-round victory. Fayetteville State concluded its season at 19-9. The Lady Knights will play the Indiana (Pa.)-Johnson C. Smith winner Saturday, March 14 at 6 p.m. The NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional semifinal game can be heard live on 90.5 WERG. The contest will not be streamed live via the Internet due to the Gannon-UPJ men’s basketball stream at the same time.