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IUP BASKETBALL: Crimson Hawks fall to Edinboro in PSAC women's quarterfinals

by on March 05, 2014 10:35 AM

EDINBORO — IUP went into McComb Fieldhouse confident, and a strong early burst had the Crimson Hawks flying high. Unfortunately, that marked the end of the positives, both for the game and the 2013-14 season.

IUP fell to top-seeded Edinboro, 79-60, in a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference quarterfinal game that was only close in the early going Tuesday night.

The Hawks finished 18-10 and in fourth place in the PSAC West Division in their first season under coach Tom McConnell.

Having played No. 25 Edinboro tough in both regular-season meetings, especially just 10 days before in a 69-63 loss in which they once held a 16-point second-half lead, IUP felt confident and opened up a 13-6 lead in the first seven minutes. The Fighting Scots countered with a 28-2 run, and that was that.

“That’s the definition of a buzzsaw that we ran into,” McConnell said. “They just had it going and they were making shots, and we just went cold. We tried to pound the ball inside to (forward) Ashley (Stoner), and we hit that stretch where we couldn’t score. That was too much to recover from. We fought to the end, but once they got that lead, that was the difference in the game.”

The Fighting Scots shot 63.0 percent (17 of 27) in the first half, including a 6 of 9 showing from 3-point range. They finished the game at 55.4 percent shooting (31 of 56).

Valerie Majewski and Lauren Hippo led the 3-point barrage, and guard Darche’ Jackson was unstoppable on her penetration. All the while, IUP fell into a funk offensively.

The Scots cut off Stoner down low, and the outside shooting went into a slump.

“It just all hit us at once,” IUP junior guard Marita Mathe said. “We tried to regroup, but they kept coming at us full force and we couldn’t take it. We couldn’t handle it.”

“You have to give them credit,” McConnell said. “They really played at a high level. They were home and they had it rolling, they made a couple shots, they got their confidence, and we just weren’t able to stop the bleeding at that point. Once we came through that we were able to compete and play hard to the end — it was a three-point game in the second half. We competed. We just hit that one stretch where we couldn’t score and we couldn’t get the stops we needed to get.”

As much as IUP drew positives from the previous close calls with Edinboro, the Scots took for motivation, and they beat the Crimson Hawks for the 10th straight time.

“I told our players, we can’t play one half,” Edinboro coach Stan Swank said. “We have to play two halves, and we have to play 40 minutes. They came ready to play tonight.”

The Fighting Scots earned the right to get ready. The division’s first-place finisher, Edinboro had a first-round bye while IUP had to battle Pitt Johnstown on Saturday.

“It helped us having a little bit of a rest and having that break,” Swank said. “It allowed us to reorganize and get ourselves together from the regular season while they were playing a game. They played a game just a few days ago and had to turn around and come up to Edinboro. Playing at home helped us, being on our court; that fed into it quite a bit.”

Stoner and Majewski each led their teams with 21 points. Lindsay Stamp scored 13 for IUP. Jackson had 20 and Hippo added 13 for the Scots.

IUP finished its ninth straight winning season.

Tuesday concluded a hectic several months for the Hawks. Jeff Dow was dismissed as head coach last spring, and McConnell was brought on board for his 24th season of coaching and his eighth as a head coach.

“We had some ups and downs,” Mathe said. “All we can do is keep fighting and fighting. Hopefully we learned from this season and we’re just going to come back even stronger next year and try to beat out those three teams that beat us every single time this year.”

“It’s been an honor for me to coach them and make this journey with them,” McConnell said. “I’m really looking forward to the months ahead and just seeing if we can continue to grow and get better so we can take those steps that we want to as a program.”

Eli Nellis is a sports writer for The Indiana Gazette.
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