(Posted February 17, 2008)

KINGS POINT, N.Y. - Juniata College junior Claudia McDowell (Alexandria, Pa./Juniata Valley) poured in 24 points, 18 in the second half alone, to lead the Eagles to a 70-55 win over the upset-minded United States Merchant Marine Academy, in Landmark Conference women's basketball action Sunday afternoon in Kings Point, N.Y. The win means Juniata will finish as either a no. 2 or 3 seed for the Landmark Conference tournament, but either way will face Moravian College in the semifinals on Wednesday, Feb. 27. Juniata will need a win over Susquehanna in next Saturday's regular season finale, along with a Moravian loss to the University of Scranton, to secure the no. 2 seed. McDowell shot 7-of-15 from the field with three three-pointers, and went 7-of-8 at the free-throw line, while dishing out five assists. The 24-point performance was McDowell's best effort this season since scoring 26 points in the win over Neumann College back on December 7, 2007. McDowell's first two points of the second half came on a pair of foul shots at the 18:06 mark, giving the Eagles (16-8, 9-4 Landmark) a 31-30 lead - their first since the game's opening minutes. She later stretched that margin to six points following a trey with 12:02 remaining, then put Juniata in front 48-39 with 10:15 remaining on another three-pointer. The Eagles slowly pulled away from Merchant Marine (14-10, 6-7 Landmark) from there, with the lead reaching its widest at 17 points, 66-49 with 1:06 remaining, following a layup by Kelly Ashcraft (Bellefonte, Pa./State College). Jen Hnatuck (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Trinity) finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds, her eighth double-double of the season, along with four steals. Ashcraft logged 12 points with nine boards and three steals. Merchant Marine was paced offensively by Kristen Hetsko and Stephanie Waller with 13 points each, while Morgan Gartner chipped in with 10. Juniata closes out its regular season next Saturday in Selinsgrove, Pa., when it faces Susquehanna University. -30-

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