By: Jennifer Jones
Director of Sports Information
firstname.lastname@example.org • juniatasports.net
Photo: TJ Chance-Chin
MADISON, N.J. – The stakes were high in Baldwin Gym Saturday afternoon as Juniata College women's basketball and Drew University battled for the final spot in the 2014 Landmark Conference Tournament. Neither team led by more than eight points in a contest that came down to the final seconds. Juniata (14-11, 7-7 Landmark) fended off a late surge by the Rangers to win 51-48. The victory extended Juniata's win streak to five and cemented their place as the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. Drew dropped to 13-12 overall, 6-8 in Landmark play with the loss.
The Eagles seniors put the team on their backs to extend their final year in the blue and gold. Both Kate McDonald (Pennsylvania Furnace, Pa./State College Area) and Jordan Hileman (Williamsburg, Pa./Williamsburg) were on the court for 39 minutes in the win, going a full 20 in the second half. Hileman tied for the game-high in steals and made 5-of-6 from the free throw line. McDonald netted her 16th double-double of the season with game-highs of 17 points and 15 rebounds.
Sophomore Paige Dennison (East Berlin, Pa./Bermudian Springs) also had a double-digit point performance. She went 8-for-13 from the floor en route to 16 points of her own.
It was a pressure filled situation on both benches and the game got off to a slow start with Juniata taking the 18-17 lead at halftime. In a tale of two halves, offensive production nearly doubled as the teams battled down the stretch. Juniata never relinquished its first half lead, despite the Rangers tying the game twice.
The Eagles led by six (46-40) after a pair of free throws from McDonald with 2:02 to play. Hannah Miller then went to work, pulling Drew within three points (46-43). After Dennison hit a jumper to push the lead back out to five, the Rangers countered with a three and closed the gap to two (48-46) with only 37 seconds remaining.
Juniata inbounded the ball and called timeout with 27 seconds on the clock to set up a play. They couldn't capitalize on the moment and Breana Wilson grabbed the defensive rebound. She went for the layup on the other end with 10 seconds left and McDonald came up with a big block. After Wilson got the ball back, Drew called timeout, but immediately turned the ball back over to the Eagles with nine seconds left.
Hileman was fouled and went to the line. She made the first of her two free throws to push the lead back out to three, and missed the second, only her second free throw miss in 23 attempts. Wilson got the rebound and was fouled with seven seconds to play. She hit them both and made it a one-point game (49-48). Hileman caught the inbounds and was fouled with five seconds left. This time she hit them both and gave Juniata the three-point lead. Wilson was able to get the potential game-tying three off as time expired. But it was off the mark, ending the Rangers season.
The playoffs essentially began two-weeks ago for the Eagles. After dropping a tough game at home to Catholic back on February 12, Juniata needed to win out the remainder of the regular season in order to push their way into the postseason. Their run has included dramatic wins over Susquehanna and Goucher, along with an upset of No. 2 seed Moravian on the road. They will now face top-seeded University of Scranton in the conference semifinals on Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m.
Follow Your Eagles! Stay up-to-date on your Juniata College Eagles by logging onto www.juniatasports.net. And don't forget to follow us on twitter (@JuniataEagles) and on Facebook (Juniata Eagles).