Top-seeded Gulls overcome deficit to Spartans; advance to CAC championship

Top-seeded Gulls overcome deficit to Spartans; advance to CAC championship

SALISBURY, Md. – For the third time this season, the No. 18 Salisbury University women's basketball team overcame a deficit to York College of Pennsylvania to pull out a victory, this time a 76-61 triumph in a Capital Athletic Conference semifinal game Thursday night. SU will advance to the championship game for the first time since the 2002-'03 season. 

With the victory, not only do the Sea Gulls (24-2) advance to the championship game after falling in the semifinals in the three previous years, but they also match the program record in wins in a single season, a mark that was met in consecutive seasons at the start of the new millennium.

The game started out slow, not seeing any scoring either way through the first six possessions, but the Spartans were the first to strike on a layup. The Sea Gulls wouldn't waste any time to draw the score level at the other end. Following a three-point attempt by senior Sarah Seipp, an offensive rebound and put back by senior Melanie Mocniak got SU on the board.

The bucket by Mocniak built a little momentum for the Gulls, as a turnover on the Spartan end would be transitioned into a three-pointer on the offensive end for Salisbury. Seipp drove down the right wing and kicked out to senior Courtney McManus for the long ball kept the scoring rolling. Junior Julia McLaughlin would add on a jumper from the right side to extend the lead to 7-2 by the 17:15 mark, but York started to heat up, going on a seven-point run to reclaim the lead which they would hold onto for the remainder of the half.

Trailing by 10 points with 2:31 remaining in the first half, Salisbury started to push the pace offensively. Senior Anna Hackett, with the ball, drove inside to clear space for Seipp who caught the dish at the top of the arc for a three-pointer. Seipp would add another basket and McLaughlin chipped in a jumper in the run, but the Gulls still trailed, 34-29, at the break.

Although the Spartans opened the half with the first basket, off a free thow, Salisbury answered with a 6-0 run to draw the score even. Mocniak started the scoring with a jumper on the right side of the court, before two forced turnovers by Hackett and McLaughlin ended with baskets on the other end. With the ball underneath, York's Brianna Bisci tossed the ball high on the inbounds, but Hackett came down with it. Pushing it the other way, she found sophomore Lauren Rothfeld for the left-handed finish. The next play, solid defensive pressure by McLaughlin forced the other turnover on the pass, transitioning into a jumper on the other side by Mocniak and a 35-35 score.

The game would remain tight for most of the second half, seeing seven lead changes, but it was the Sea Gulls who take the last lead with 3:35 remaining that wouldn't be surrendered for the rest of the game. With the score tied at 58 apiece, Seipp found Mocniak on the left side for a jumper to give Salisbury the final lead change of the game.

The scoring would keep rolling for SU. On York's possession, Hackett pulled down the defensive rebound and pushed the ball up the court. Finding some room down the lane, she drove in for the right-handed finish, drawing the foul, and finishing the three-point play at the charity stripe.

With time ticking away, the Spartans were losing chances to get back the deficit, as they sent the Gulls to the free-throw line. Seipp cashed in three, while Hackett added two to separate the score to 73-61.

Mocniak capped off the scoring for Salisbury with eight seconds remaining, catching a pass from Hackett in the right corner for the long ball and a 76-61 final.

Hackett finished with game-highs in points and assists with 21 and eight, respectively. Seipp chipped in for 18 points and seven assists, while Mocniak recorded her first double-double of the season with 17 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.

With the victory, the Sea Gulls advance to the CAC championship game on Saturday, February 28. Being the top seed in the tournament, Salisbury will host the winner of the other semifinal game, second-seeded University of Mary Washington, who downed third-seeded Marymount (Va.) University, 59-46. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m., in Maggs Physical Activities Center. 

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