W&J Faces Swarthmore In ECAC Semifinals
WASHINGTON, Pa. -- A berth in the ECAC Division III Southern Division Women’s Basketball Championship is on the line when third-seeded Washington & Jefferson faces second-seeded Swarthmore in the semifinal round of the tournament on Saturday in Bethlehem, Pa.
The Presidents (21-8) and Garnet (21-7) tip-off at 2:00 pm in the first semifinal game, while host and top-seeded Moravian (21-6) takes on fourth-seeded Juniata (19-8) at 4:00 pm.
W&J and Swarthmore will be meeting for the first time on the hard wood. The Presidents own a 5-3 all-time record against current members of the Centennial Conference, but have not faced a foe from the league since downing Washington College (Md.) 80-53 in 2007. W&J has opposed a Centennial team once in postseason play, edging Dickinson 79-73 in the 1994 ECAC semifinals at Moravian. The Presidents defeated the host Greyhounds 87-73 the following day to claim the program’s first ECAC crown.
Junior forward Chelsea Apke (Pittsburgh, Pa./Mount Lebanon) lifted W&J into the semifinals on Wednesday by nailing an off-balance jumper with 4.1 seconds to play, while being fouled to put the Presidents in front of Penn State-Behrend 60-59. Apke missed the free throw, but junior point guard Kara Seamon (Morgantown, W. Va./University) grabbed the rebound and sank a pair of free throws to give W&J a 62-59 lead. Sophomore guard Erin Lavery (Pittsburgh, Pa./Oakland Catholic) blocked the Lions’ final heave from half court to clinch the three-point victory.
Apke recorded 17 points, four rebounds and three steals, while senior guard Emily Abraham (Canfield, Ohio/Boardman) matched her career best with 20 points, including four three-pointers. Seamon handed out six assists and sophomore center Valerie Dunlap (Hostetter, Pa./Latrobe) produced her 11th double-double with 10 points and 10 boards.
With the victory, W&J improved to 5-0 all-time in ECAC quarterfinal games and 9-2 overall in the tournament. The Presidents’ 21 victories this winter are the sixth-highest, single-season total in school history. Seven of W&J’s 20-win seasons have come under Head Coach Jina DeRubbo’s guidance. Saturday’s game will be the 30th of the season for the Presidents, the most the team has ever played in its 39-year history.
Chatham is the lone common opponent this season for the Presidents and the Garnet. Swarthmore cruised past the Cougars 89-53 in its season opener, while W&J defeated Chatham 61-27 at home and completed the season sweep with a 69-37 road victory.
Swarthmore, making its first appearance in the ECAC Tournament since 2003, advanced to the semifinals with a 67-61 victory over seventh-seeded Marywood on Wednesday. The Garnet held the Pacers scoreless over the final 5:53 of regulation, while scoring the game’s last seven points to secure the win. Eliza Polli and Elle Larsen tied for the team lead with 17 points. Polli drained five triples, while Larsen grabbed nine rebounds and blocked four shots. Centennial Conference Player of the Year Katie Lytle contributed eight points, 10 rebounds and six steals.
Lytle leads the team in scoring (14.9), rebounding (12.1 rpg) and steals (2.5 spg), while ranking second in assists (2.4 apg) and blocked shots (1.1 bpg). Her 20 double-doubles this winter place her fifth in NCAA Division III. 38 percent of Swarthmore's field goal attempts have come from beyond the three-point arc (655-1,731), led by Polli, who has canned 69-of-205 tries from long range.
The ECAC Championship game will be held Sunday at 1:00 pm at Moravian’s Johnston Hall. W&J seeks its third ECAC Southern Division title after claiming the 1994 and 2008 championships.