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Women's hoops captures ECAC South Region championship with win over Wesley

(Posted March 8, 2009)

PURCHASE, N.Y. -- The reality is that very few collegiate athletes end their season with a win. But the Juniata College women's basketball team ended their 2008-09 campaign in unforgettable fashion on Sunday with a 72-52 win over Wesley College, capturing the ECAC Division III South Region Women's Championship.

With the win, eighth-seeded Juniata captured the first post-season championship of any kind in program history.

Freshman guard Ashton Bankos (York, Pa./York Catholic) led the Eagles with a career-high 22 points, while senior guard Claudia McDowell (Alexandria, Pa./Juniata Valley) had 13 points with five rebounds on her way to earning tournament Most Valuable Player honors. Sophomore Jen Hnatuck (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Trinity) recorded her ninth double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Juniata raced out to a 16-7 lead at the 12:59 mark of the opening half, following a three-pointer by McDowell, and pushed its lead into double-digits by the 10-minute mark. The Eagles' lead reached its widest at 39-21 on a Bankos trey with 2:16 showing in the half.

The Eagles maintained at least a 12-point lead the rest of the way.

A 10-0 Juniata run that began with Emily Hauser's (Pittsburgh, Pa./Mt. Lebanon) layup with 8:19 to play and lasted nearly six minutes all but put the game away, and left the Eagles with a 22-point lead. Bankos scored five points during that surge, all on free throws; she finished the day 8-of-10 at the line and 5-of-11 from the field with four three-pointers.

Juniata's free-throw shooting proved to be one of the game's decisive factors, as the Eagles went to the line 24 times and shot 75 percent. Wesley earned just seven trips to the stripe and converted just two of those.

The Eagles dominated the Wolverines (17-12) on the boards, 37-27, including a 12-8 advantage on the offensive glass. Juniata yielded 18 points off 20 Wesley College turnovers.

The Wolverines had two players finish with double-digit scoring totals: Angie Owens with 19 points and Colleen Thomas with 14. Cory Boyd tallied nine points to go with nine assists.

Juniata's win complete an amazing three-game run, during which the Eagles blazed their way through the ECAC South Region Tournament field. Juniata outscored its three ECAC tourney opponents by an average of 16.3 points per game, and shot a combined 51.2% (87-170) from the field.

The victory allowed the Eagles to finish their season with an 18-11 mark, giving Juniata women's basketball its most successful two-season span in program history with a total of 36 wins.

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