March 14, 2009

Courtesy of Indiana (Pa.)

IUP stormed back from an 11-point second half deficit and forced overtime on a buzzer beating layup by Staci Heberling but could not complete the comeback, falling in overtime 69-65 to Gannon in the semifinals of the NCAA Atlantic Region tournament at California's Hamer Hall.

The Crimson Hawks finished their season with a record of 26-6, tied for the second most wins in school history, while Gannon (26-4) advances to Monday night's championship game against the winner of the second semifinal between Charleston and host California.

Seniors Heberling, Jahzinga Tracey and Kylie Miller all reached double figures in their final game in an IUP uniform. Heberling led the Crimson Hawks with 14 points and Tracey and Miller both had 10. But IUP shot only 28.6 percent from the floor, including an uncharacteristic 3 for 15 by Tracey.

Miller added six assists and Tracey had eight rebounds to pace the Crimson Hawks in those departments.

Kristina Freeman led all scorers with 26 points for Gannon while Carrie Nolan tallied 13 and Brittany Tabron finished with 11. Tabron also had a game-high 12 rebounds.

Heberling scored 12 of her points in the second half and her driving layup off a feed from Kylie Miller tied the game at 56 as time expired in regulation. Playing without Tracey, who fouled out with 1:45 left in the second half, the Crimson Hawks had six missed shots and two turnovers as Gannon scored the first six points of overtime.

IUP got within three points on several occasions, the last time at 67-64 with six seconds left, but the Golden Knights converted six straight free throws in the final 26 seconds to keep their lead safe.

IUP was behind 43-32 with 11:01 left in the second half before starting what had become a habit of rallying late in postseason games. Just a week earlier, the Crimson Hawks battled back from nine down in the final three minutes to force overtime and then defeated California in the PSAC championship game.

Two free throws by Kierstin Filla, who had nine points in the game, jumpstarted a 13-6 run and two more free throws by Heberling at the 3:31 mark cut the Gannon lead to 49-45. IUP got it to 53-51 but Freeman hit two from the line to give the Golden Knights a four-point lead with just 21 seconds left.

Lacey Claar started the final second heroics with a 3-pointer with nine seconds left. Two seconds later, Tiffany Crocker missed the second of two shots to leave the score at 56-54. Claar grabbed the rebound on the miss, fed Miller at midcourt and Miller found Heberling for the bucket that forced overtime.

Trailing 28-21 at halftime, IUP scored the first two baskets of the second half to get within 28-25 just 1:36 into the period. But Gannon went on a 10-3 run over the next 4:19 and built a 38-28 lead on a layup by Brittany Tabron with 14:05 left in the game.

After the Crimson Hawks got it back to a six-point game, Freeman hit a jumper and Nolan drained a 3-pointer to make it 43-32, but IUP would not allow its season to end without staging one last comeback attempt.

Tracey finished her career with 2,104 points, the sixth-highest total in PSAC history, and she also stands third in field goals made with 889, fourth with 378 steals and eighth with 1,092 rebounds. Tracey, Heberling (1,141) and Miller (1,012) combined to score 4,254 points in their stellar careers.