ERIE, Pa. -- Jada Blackwell and Ashley Lovett regard the paint as their area.
The two played like they were right at home on Tuesday.
Blackwell had a season-high 35 points and pulled down nine rebound, while Lovett had 14 points and nine rebound as the duo led Cal Poly Pomona to an 81-61 win against Edinboro in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight in front of 2,149 fans at Erie Insurance Arena.“We had to buckle down and knew if we controlled the paint that it would be a game-changer,” Lovett said. “We talk about rebounding a lot and defensive stops wins games. We focused on defense and not letting people have an easy time getting into the paint. That's our area and you have to come through us, which is not going to be easy.”
Cal Poly Pomona (26-6) advances to the national semifinals on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. ET against either Bentley or Drury.
Blackwell and Lovett dominated inside for most of the game after the Broncos settled down from an early 11-2 deficit. The two were a matchup problem for No. 25 Edinboro (27-6), which didn't have much inside depth beyond standout Aignee' Freeland.
Freeland, however, picked up her third foul in the first half, giving Blackwell and Lovett an opportunity to take over the game.
“I think with a hometown crowd we were a little rattled early but we gained back our composure,” Blackwell said. “We knew they'd hit shots, but we had to hit ours and I wanted to do what I do in the paint.”
Blackwell, a 6-foot 1-inch junior center, transferred from Division I Arizona State and has been a big part of Cal Poly Pomona's success this season. With Freeland on the bench, Blackwell scored 13 points and had six rebounds in the first 20 minutes, and Lovett had eight points with four defensive rebounds. Lovett, a 6-foot junior forward, is a transfer from Division I Loyola Marymount.
“Those two have been big for us all year,” Cal Poly Pomona coach Danelle Bishop said. “We were kind of chuckling in the locker room that Jada gets so much attention with double and triple teams, which is what she's been dealing with all year, but then Ashley Lovett goes and gets 14 points and nine rebounds. We call Ashley our 'X' factor because she contributes so much in the paint. Jada is a phenomenal player and has kept our team going all year.”
Edinboro was able to stay in the game in the second half as Freeland played nearly foul-free to finish with 18 points and 13 rebounds, but the combination of Blackwell and Lovett was too much for the Fighting Scots to overcome.
J.J. Judge had 13 points for the Broncos, while Ariel Marsh added eight points and eight rebounds. Darche' Jackson and Laurel Lindsay each had 11 points for Edinboro.
“Coming into the game we prepped our team for a tough atmosphere with Edinboro being close by,” Bishop said. “Edinboro took away what we wanted to do at first but we regrouped at halftime and started playing Bronco basketball.”