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Scranton Athletics | March 8, 2014

Scranton rallies from 13-point hole to advance to third round

SCRANTON, Pa. -- Head coach Mike Strong called it one of the best wins he's had in the Long Center in his 34 years as the head coach of Scranton.

The Lady Royals overcame a 13-point deficit with less than 10 minutes to go and freshman forward Alexix Roman scored a career-high 30 points, including a free throw with five seconds left, in a wild 72-71 victory against Vassar in an NCAA tournament second-round game on Saturday evening.

The win boosts Scranton (26-3) into the Round of 16 for the first time since 2009, where it will face Montclair State (27-2) on Friday at a site and time to be determined.

Freshman forward Sarah Payonk had 15 points, four rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block despite playing just 19 minutes due to foul trouble. Junior forward Meredith Mesaris added 11 points and six rebounds.

After battling back from a first-half deficit to knot the score at 39 at halftime when junior guard Lia DiSciascio buried a 3-pointer from the right corner just before the buzzer. But Vassar (23-6) scored the first 11 points of the second half to take a 50-39 lead with 15:40 to play.

The Brewers pushed their lead to 13 at 60-47 with 9:29 to play when senior guard Cydni Matsuoka hit her third 3-pointer of the half.

That's when Payonk and Roman took over. The duo scored five consecutive points and seven of Scranton's next nine to ignite an 18-3 run that gave the Lady Royals a 65-63 lead with 2:37 left on a layup by Roman.

Vassar immediately tied the score on a pair of free throws by sophomore guard Caitlyn Drakeley, who finished with 28 points. Payonk scored inside on Scranton's next possession, but Drakeley answered with a jumper, followed by another layup by Payonk for a 69-67 lead with 1:21 to play.

Vassar senior forward Hannah Senftleber  then scored inside to tie the score with 1:01 to play. But she fouled out moments later on a play that sent Roman to the line, where she hit two free throws for a 71-69 lead with 43 second left. But Drakeley answered again with a jumper with 31 seconds left, setting up the frantic finish.

After a Scranton timeout, the Lady Royals worked the ball inside to Roman, who was fouled with five second left. She hit the first of two free throws, and sophomore guard Jaclyn Gantz forced a jump ball after Vassar secured the rebound, and the arrow gave the ball to Scranton with just under three second left. The Lady Royals got the ball into Roman, who was fouled with 0.9 seconds left. She missed both free throws, but the rebound was tipped around as time expired.

DiSciascio finished with nine points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block, and junior guard Lindsay Fluehr had nine assists without committing a turnover, to go along with three points and three rebounds, all while guarding Matsuoka, a finalist for the nation's most outstanding player, for 39 minutes.

Scranton finished the game 27-for-65 (41.5 percent) from the field, but just 2-for-18 (11.1 percent) from 3-point range. The Lady Royals made 16 of 22 free throws (72.7 percent) while committing just 14 turnovers. They also won the rebounding battle 42-31, including 10 from Roman. Scranton scored 46 points in the paint and had 18 points off offensive rebounds.

Vassar also received 15 points, nine assists and seven rebounds from Matsuoka, and 11 points and five rebounds from Senftleber.