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Juniata women's hoops down Moravian; advance to Landmark title game

(Posted February 27, 2008)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Freshman Jen Hnatuck's (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Trinity) layup with 19 seconds left on the clock helped lift the no. 2 seed Juniata College women's basketball team to a 61-59 win over third-seeded Moravian College, in a 2008 Landmark Conference Women's Basketball Tournament semifinal game, Wednesday night at the Kennedy Sports + Recreation Center in Huntingdon, Pa.

The Eagles (18-8) will now advance to Saturday's championship game against the top-seeded University of Scranton. The Royals advanced to the title game by virtue of a 63-44 win over no. 4 seed United States Merchant Marine Academy in the other semifinal game, played in Scranton, Pa.

With Moravian (16-10) holding a slim 57-56 lead as the game passed the 3:00 mark of the second half, the Greyhounds stretched their lead with a pair of foul shots by Jessica Foran.

Juniata cut the Moravian lead back to one point, 59-58, on its next possession with an Ali Meckey (Ebensburg, Pa./Bishop Carroll) layup with 2:20 remaining.

The Greyhounds' narrow lead held up as the game headed toward the final minute, with the Eagles missing three attempts at the go-ahead bucket. Moravian finally regained possession off a missed jumper by Kelly Ashcraft (Bellefonte, Pa./State College), which caromed off a Juniata player and out of bounds.

On the ensuing Moravian possession, Kirsty Stearns was called for an illegal screen on Ashcraft with 36 seconds left on the clock, returning possession to Juniata. Hnatuck worked around a double-team in the low post, eventually twisting her way past two Greyhound defenders and banking-in the layup to give the Eagles a 60-59 lead.

Amanda Brown's three-point attempt from the left side to put the Greyhounds back in front was off the mark, with the rebound grabbed by Ashcraft. She was immediately fouled by Moravian's Kate Harrison with just six seconds on the clock, and Ashcraft drained the first of the two free throws to widen the Juniata lead. The second free throw was off target, but rebounded by Hnatuck.

Hnatuck's pass to advance the ball went out of bounds, turning the ball back over to Moravian, but the final Greyhound shot was ruled to have been taken after the horn.

Juniata looked like it was going to dominate the contest in the early going, with the Eagles holding a 16-7 lead over Moravian at the 13:56 mark of the first half following a Claudia McDowell (Alexandria, Pa./Juniata Valley) three-pointer.

Moravian responded with a 15-0 run lasting nearly six minutes, which finally ended with a Mindy Werner (York, Pa./York) foul shot at the 7:52 mark of the opening frame. The Greyhounds held a 22-17 lead by that point, and managed to head into the locker room at the break with a 32-29 advantage.

The second half was a back-and-forth contest with one tie and six lead changes leading up to the final three minutes of play.

Ashcraft led the Eagles with 21 points on 10-of-12 shooting from the field, while Hnatuck added 14 points and Meckey logging 12 points. McDowell matched her season high with seven assists to go with nine points and four steals. Juniata shot .520 (26-50) from the field, its third-best shooting performance this season.

Harrison paced the Moravian offense with 17 points, with Jessica Foran chipping in with 13 points.

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Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.