By Adam Zielonka
The DeSales women’s basketball team defeated the Manhattanville College Valiants in their Freedom Conference semifinal match-up Wednesday night at Billera Hall, 69-68, when Morgan McCollian made a last-second bank shot in overtime (see video below).
On an inbound play with two seconds left in the extra period, McCollian scored the game-winner from the middle of the paint. The junior center dominated the game and recorded a double-double, tying both her career best of 33 points and her season high of 14 rebounds.
With the victory, the top-seeded Bulldogs advance to the Freedom Conference Championship Game. They will host the game Saturday afternoon at Billera against #2 seed Fairleigh Dickinson-Florham, who needed overtime themselves in their 68-64 semifinal victory over #3 Delaware Valley Wednesday.
DeSales drew four fouls in the first six minutes of the game while committing none themselves and used that advantage to get out to a 14-7 lead. The first quarter ended with a 19-10 Bulldogs lead after McCollian and her teammates blocked a string of shots and passes in order to deny Manhattanville from multiple scoring opportunities in the final 1:20 of the period.
But DeSales hit a scoring drought in the second quarter—a full four minutes and 38 seconds between two McCollian layups during which the Bulldogs missed six field goals and freshman Katie Miller even committed a shot-clock violation. At the same time, though, Manhattanville played sloppy basketball. Throughout the first half, plenty of their passes skipped off players’ feet, and their ball-handling was shaky at points.
DeSales got back on track after McCollian ended the drought. On the ensuing Valiant possession, McCollian grabbed a defensive rebound and sent it up ahead to sophomore Kaitlin Kelly, who promptly buried a three. Manhattanville cut into the lead before the halftime buzzer, making it 34-21. McCollian had 13 points and eight rebounds in the first half alone.
The student section filled up early in the second half, but that didn’t stop Manhattanville from starting the half with a 16-6 run that spanned more than half the third quarter. They scored more prolifically while DeSales’ offense became one-dimensional: All six points in that span came off similar passes to McCollian in the low post. When the Valiants’ leading scorer, Ashley Raaf, drained a trey to cut the score to 40-37, DeSales finally responded with a layup from freshman point guard Morgan Birmelin. But Manhattanville kept it close the rest of the quarter and ended the third behind only 47-39.
DeSales could not score in the first 2:50 of the fourth until McCollian solidified her double-double with her 10th rebound and got DeSales on the board with the put-back. Senior Jen Napolitano followed that up with a clutch three, her first of the night. When Manhattanville’s Ashley Franklin matched her with a three of her own, Napolitano sank her second straight on the very next possession, making the score 55-45.
Manhattanville went on one final tear, outscoring the Bulldogs 13-3 in the final 3:39 of regulation. Down 60-57 with 15 seconds on the game clock, the Valiants’ Bri Pabon drained a three to tie the game with just 15 seconds on the game clock, and Kelly was unable to hit the game-winning buzzer beater for DeSales in regulation.
McCollian drew a foul early in overtime and made one of two shots, and senior Kelly Anthony came up with a gritty steal on the Valiants’ first possession. However, they came right back with a jumper from Raaf to take a 62-61 lead and soon extended their lead to 66-62. McCollian converted a crucial three-point play by drawing a foul during a layup, bringing the deficit to one with 1:22 to play. But Valiant forward Kayleah McGuire drew a foul and made both foul shots to extend it to 68-65. After a couple of missed three-point attempts, Miller drew a foul while rebounding. She made both shots to return the deficit to one point and less than 45 seconds to play.
Napolitano grabbed a significant defensive rebound on Manhattanville’s last possession, and after the team passed half court, head coach Fred Richter called timeout with nine seconds. After a loose ball bounced out of bounds, the Bulldogs were granted two seconds for one final play. In those two seconds, Kelly inbounded to Napolitano, who found McCollian in the paint. Her shot banked off the backboard right as time expired.
Coincidentally, McCollian’s first game scoring 33 points this season was just eight days prior against the same foe, Manhattanville, in a regular-season tilt. Miller contributed nine points and five rebounds; Birmelin tallied five points, nine rebounds and a team-high six assists, but nine turnovers as well. Kelly and Napolitano finished with eight points apiece, and Anthony snagged five rebounds.
For Manhattanville, Raaf led the way with 18 points, while McGuire scored 14 and Franklin made 10.