(Posted February 15, 2007)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. - The race for the final spot in the Commonwealth Conference postseason got even tighter Thursday night as visiting Susquehanna University dealt the Juniata College women\'s basketball team a 62-57 loss in conference action. Juniata (14-10, 5-8 Commonwealth) had three players in double figures, led by Claudia McDowell\'s (Juniata Valley/Alexandria) 15, but cold shooting in the second half was too much to overcome. Juniata entered the night in a tie with Elizabethtown College for fourth place in the conference standings and the final postseason spot. The win for Susquehanna (14-10, 5-8 Commonwealth) and Elizabethtown\'s loss to fourth-ranked Messiah College creates a three-way tie for the final spot with one game remaining for each team. Lebanon Valley College is also just one game behind the tie in the standings. The Crusaders got 13 points from Val Houseal off the bench and shot 54 percent from the field in the game to earn the victory. After a tight first half, the visitors used a 14-5 run midway through the second half to build a 10-point advantage with 7:05 left in the game. A hoop from Juniata\'s Jess Winemiller (Dallastown/York) stopped the run and the Eagles eventually whittled the lead down to three with 2:59 left. Susquehanna responded as Sarah Jane Kalejta knocked down a huge three on the next possession to get the lead back to six. A free from Mindy Werner (West York/York) and another Winemiller basket with 1:15 remaining cut the lead back to three. Juniata got a stop on the defensive end, but Winemiller\'s missed a three that would have tied the score with 25 seconds left, and Jen Clark drilled a pair of free throws to seal the game. Juniata put 35 points on the board in the first half by shooting 56 percent, but the Crusaders limited the Eagles to just 22 points on 27 percent shooting over the final 20 minutes. The Eagles raced out of the box to start the game as McDowell hit a pair of early triples and then converted a steal into a lay-up to give Juniata a 10-2 edge five minutes into the game. Susquehanna then found its rhythm, eventually taking a three-point lead after a three and a lay-up from Samantha Jansson. Neither team led by more than five points the rest of the half, as a late hoop from Kelly Ashcraft (State College/Bellefonte) sent Juniata into the locker room leading by four. McDowell finished with three triples in the game and also had six steals as Juniata forced 25 turnovers. Ashcraft scored 14 points and matched Ali Meckey (Bishop Carroll/Ebensburg) with a team-high four rebounds. Winemiller added 11 points off the bench. Houseal was 5-of-8 for the Crusaders. Ruth Williamson and Courtney Thibeault each added 11 points and a team-best six rebounds. Crystal Schneck led all players with five assists. Juniata will try and earn that postseason spot when the Eagles face Albright College on the road on Saturday. ###

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