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WBB clinches Landmark tourney third seed with win over Crusaders

(Posted February 22, 2009)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Juniata College senior Claudia McDowell's (Alexandria, Pa./Juniata Valley) six points over the final minute-and-a-half helped the Eagles pull away from archrival Susquehanna University and post a 65-58 win over the Crusaders, in Landmark Conference women's basketball action Saturday night in Huntingdon.

The win allowed Juniata (15-10, 9-5 Landmark) to claim the third seed for this week's Landmark Conference Women's Basketball Tournament, while Susquehanna (16-9, 8-6 Landmark) drops to the fourth seed. The Eagles will travel to Moravian College (20-5, 10-4 Landmark) for a semifinal on Wednesday night, while Susquehanna earns a semifinal appearance at 18th-ranked University of Scranton (21-4, 13-1 Landmark).

The championship game will be played at the highest remaining seed on Saturday, Feb. 28.

McDowell closed out the final regular season game of her career with 17 points, six assists, and four steals, while senior Kelly Ashcraft (Bellefonte, Pa./State College Area) tallied 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field. Junior Kelly Rotan (Atco, N.J./Hammonton) chipped in with 11 points.

The Crusaders held a five-point lead, 57-52, with 2:37 remaining in the game, when Juniata began its game-winning drive.

McDowell cut the lead to two points, 57-55, with a three pointer with 2:35 remaining. A single free throw by the Crusaders' Ashley Watkins widened the Susquehanna lead to three points, but Juniata regained the lead with three straight baskets off Susquehanna turnovers.

A steal by Ashton Bankos (York, Pa./York Catholic) led to a Jen Hnatuck layup to cut the deficit to one point, and a turnover by the Crusaders' Watkins led to a McDowell steal and an Ashcraft layup to give Juniata its first lead since the 13:23 mark of the second half.

McDowell added insult to injury by making another theft off Watkins just past the half-court line, as o Susquehanna guard was looking over at the Crusader bench to get instructions. McDowell sailed in for the uncontested layup with 1:26 remaining, giving Juniata a three-point lead and forcing Susquehanna to call timeout.

After a missed layup attempt by the Crusaders' Rachael Hughes and a turnover by each side, Susquehanna began fouling to force Juniata to defend its lead at the line. Twice the Crusaders fouled McDowell, a 76 per cent free throw shooter this season, but she sank all four attempts to help preserve the Juniata win.

Susquehanna had two scorers in double figures, with Libby Shober leading the way with 18 points and nine rebounds. Watkins added 11 points to the Crusader cause. The Crusaders outrebounded the Eagles 38-32, including a 14-6 advantage on the offensive glass, but Susquehanna managed only nine points on its second-chance shots.

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