W&J Stops Saint Vincent; Advances To PAC Finals
CRESTVIEW HILLS, Ky. – Washington & Jefferson held off a furious Saint Vincent rally during the final 2:41 and advanced to the Presidents’ Athletic Conference Championship with a 76-70 semifinal victory over the second-seeded Bearcats Friday night at the Connor Convocation Center.
No. 3 seed W&J (20-7) will face either top-seeded and nationally-ranked Thomas More or fourth-seeded Waynesburg in Saturday’s championship game (4:00 pm). The Presidents, who clinched their ninth 20-win season in program history, will compete in their first PAC title game since 2009.
All five W&J starters scored in double figures and accounted for 71 of the team’s 76 points overall. Juniors Chelsea Apke (Pittsburgh, Pa./Mount Lebanon), Alexa Burzese (Sewickley, Pa./Quaker Valley) and Kara Seamon (Morgantown, W. Va./University) along with sophomore center Valerie Dunlap (Hostetter, Pa./Latrobe) all recorded 15 points, while senior guard Emily Abraham (Canfield, Ohio/Boardman) totaled 11.
After the game, Apke was named to the 2013 All-PAC first team, while Dunlap (2nd) and Abraham (Hon-Mention) were also selected.
Behind four-straight points from Devin McGrath, SVC jumped out early on W&J, but Burzese provided an answer with 11 points, including her third three-pointer of the half that knotted the score at 16.
The teams traded baskets until Seamon sank a pair of free throws and followed with a layup to give W&J its biggest lead of the half at 26-21.
The Bearcats reeled off eight of the game’s next 10 points to retake a one-point edge, but Abraham drained the Presidents’ fifth triple of the half and Seamon added a basket to put W&J in front after 20 minutes 33-31. The closely contested first half featured three ties and 11 lead changes.
Dunlap provided the second-half spark with eight of the Presidents’ first 10 points, advancing the W&J edge to six. Abraham pushed the lead to double figures with a three-pointer and Apke gave W&J its biggest advantage of the game at 13 (64-51) with 2:41 to play.
The Bearcats refused to give in as Elle Collins started a 14-4 SVC run with a triple to eventually cut the deficit to three. McGrath canned a pair of free throws with 1:18 to play; however she picked up her fifth foul on the ensuing Presidents’ possession and Burzese calmly sank two free throws to make the score 71-67.
After a missed three-pointer, Apke grabbed a rebound and was fouled. She connected on both free throws and Seamon added two more points from the charity stripe with 26 seconds left to secure the victory.
W&J shot 41 percent (23-56) and was aided by a season-high 24 free throws on 28 attempts. Dunlap pulled down a game-high 13 boards and blocked six shots, upping her single-season school record to 78.
Seamon made all eight of her tries from the free throw stripe and handed out six assists, while Burzese dished out four helpers. Apke added seven rebounds and a pair of steals.
McGrath paced Saint Vincent with 21 points, while Collins (12) and Jordan Clinton (11) also turned in double-figure scoring performances. The Bearcats connected on 35 percent (26-73), but only 8-of-30 attempts from beyond the arc. Both teams grabbed 43 boards.
W&J will be making its eighth appearance in the PAC Championship game. The 12-time overall conference champion Presidents have claimed a pair of tournament titles, including the last time W&J cut down the nets during a 61-58 victory over Thomas More during the 2005-06 season.