(Posted February 16, 2008)

MADISON, N.J. -- The Juniata College women's basketball team clinched a berth in the upcoming Landmark Conference Tournament with a 55-51 victory over Drew University, Saturday night in Madison, N.J. The Eagles (15-8, 8-4) can still finish anywhere from a second through fourth seed in the tournament, which begins play on Wednesday, Feb. 27, at the site of the higher seeds. A win Sunday afternoon over Merchant Marine would assure Juniata either the second or third seed. The University of Scranton locked up the regular season title and the accompanying number one seed in the tourney by virtue of a 59-54 road victory over Catholic University. Juniata held a seven-point advantage over Drew (6-17, 4-8), 52-45, as the game passed the two-minute mark, when the Rangers' Jessica DelVecchio took a bite out of the lead with a three-pointer with 1:48 to play. A made free throw by Kelly Rotan (Atco, N.J./Hammonton) following a pair of Ranger fouls widened the Eagle lead to 53-48. Emma Grossman's layup and subsequent free throw after being fouled by Jen Hnatuck (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Trinity) cut the Juniata lead to 53-51 with 1:09 left on the clock, but Drew went 0-for-2 from the field over the final minute and was unable to draw even with the Eagles. Rotan eventually provided some padding for the Juniata lead when she made a pair of free throws with just three seconds remaining in the game. Juniata actually trailed the Rangers 25-24 at the half, and slipped even further behind Drew after the Rangers' Allison Hartnett opened the second half with a layup. Kelly Ashcraft (Bellefonte, Pa./State College) responded with a jumper, followed quickly by a layup from Hnatuck and a three-pointer - Juniata's only trey of the night - by Jill Walsh (Johnstown, Pa./Ferndale). After the Eagles' run was interrupted by another Hartnett layup, Ashcraft rattled off the next five points on a traditional three-point play and a jumper to give Juniata a 36-29 lead with 13:54 to play. Drew made the next three buckets in the span of about 90 seconds to pull within one point of Juniata, 36-35. The Eagles answered with a 7-0 run of their own and led 43-35 at the 11:12 mark, and maintained at least a two-possession lead until the final minute of regulation. Ashcraft led the Eagles with 18 points, including 10 in the second half. Hnatuck finished with 13 points, nine of those in the second stanza. Four players pulled down six rebounds for the Eagles, while Claudia McDowell (Alexandria, Pa./Juniata Valley) dished out five assists. Hartnett paced the Drew offense with 15 points, while Laura Methvin hauled down a game-high 14 boards. While Juniata and Drew each finished with 32 rebounds and the Rangers held a narrow 12-11 advantage on the offensive glass, it was the Eagles who made the most of the offensive rebounding opportunities. Juniata posted 23 second-chance points, against only five for Drew. Juniata continues its road swing on Sunday when it faces the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y. Tip-off is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. -30-

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Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.