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Juniata women's hoops falls to Moravian in Landmark semis

(Posted February 25, 2009)

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Eight minutes without a bucket, and six minutes without a single point. It's not the longest of scoring droughts, but Juniata College's scoreless span in the latter part of the second half was long enough for second-seed Moravian College to go on a 12-0 run and cruise past the third-seeded Eagles 66-57, in Wednesday night's Landmark Conference Women's Basketball Tournament semifinal at Johnston Hall.

Wednesday's loss could mark the end of the Eagles' 2008-09 season. Juniata (15-11) has declared for the ECAC Division III South Region Tournament, but the field for the eight-team ECAC tourney won't be announced until after the NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Championship selections are announced on Monday, Mar. 2.

Moravian (21-5) will advance to Saturday's Landmark championship game against top-seeded University of Scranton, who was a 60-51 victor over Susquehanna University on Wednesday evening.

Juniata was led by senior Kelly Ashcraft (Bellefonte, Pa./State College Area) with 20 points, while sophomore forward Jen Hnatuck (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Trinity) reeled in the double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Senior guard Claudia McDowell (Alexandria, Pa./Juniata Valley) had a game-high 12 boards to go with her seven assists and four steals.

Moravian had a 29-23 lead at the intermission, after Juniata missed its last three field goal attempts of the first half while the Greyhounds received layups from Kirsty Stearns and Jessica Foran. However after three lead changes and a pair of ties early in the second half, Juniata was left holding a 46-43 lead following junior Kelly Rotan's (Atco, N.J./Hammonton) jumper with 9:18 remaining.

The Greyhounds answered with their 12-0 run to take charge of the game, starting with another Stearns layup and a three-pointer by Foran. Juniata's Rotan finally broke Moravian's hex with a pair of foul shots with 3:13 showing, cutting the Greyhound lead to 55-48.

The margin see-sawed between nine and seven points over the next two minutes, until Ashcraft cut the deficit to six points, 61-55, on a traditional three-point play. That would be as close as the Eagles would get, however, as the Greyhounds held Juniata to just one bucket - Ashcraft's layup - over the final nine minutes of the game.

Moravian helped its cause by going 9-of-10 at the free-throw line over the final four minutes.

Both Moravian and Juniata, as it turned out, had plenty of opportunities to practice their foul shots in the second half. After the two teams received a combined three free throws - all for Juniata - in the first half, the Eagles and the Greyhounds logged a total of 33 free throw attempts over the second 20 minutes of play. Moravian received the lion's share of those and finished 17-of-21 at the stripe, while Juniata was 10-of-12 at the line.

Moravian had four players in double-figures, led by Foran with 15 points. Stearns recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, with Alyssa Bisci chipping in with 13 points.

Both teams struggled on field goal percentage, with the Eagles going 21-of-57 (36.8%) from the field while the Greyhounds were 22-of-56 (39.3%) from the floor.

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