|Noelle Alicea||Sarah Payonk||Bridgette Mann|
|Alexix Roman||Denise Rizzo|
SCRANTON, Pa. - Senior guard Noelle Alicea (Downingtown, Pa./Downingtown East) had a game-high 20 points and nailed four three-pointers, as the third-ranked University of Scranton women's basketball team captured the 2016 Landmark Conference Championship with an emphatic 78-57 victory over Catholic in front of a capacity crowd inside the John Long Center on Saturday afternoon.
With the win, the Lady Royals will head into the Division III NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament unbeaten at 27-0, the first time in program history that has occurred.
The Landmark Conference Championship is the fourth in Lady Royal program history, as Scranton previously captured the title in 2008, 2009 and 2014. It is also the 25th conference championship in program history for the Lady Royals.
Catholic ends the year with a 17-10 overall mark with the defeat.
At the start, both teams came racing out of the gate and scored almost at will on each other throughout the first 10 minutes of action.
Early, Catholic held a slim lead for 1:04 throughout the quarter, as it seemed like each time the Cardinals would convert on their own end, Scranton answered on there's.
In all, the Lady Royals nailed six three-pointers in the first 10 minutes, capped off by a trey by sophomore Katie O'Reilly (Montville, N.J./Montville) at the horn to give Scranton a 33-24 edge after one.
In the second, Scranton began to turn the heat up defensively on Catholic and opened the quarter on a 8-3 run to open their biggest lead of the day at 41-28. The lead remained in double-figures the rest of the way, as Scranton went into the locker room for intermission up 46-35 on the visiting Cardinals.
Throughout the second half, the Lady Royals continued to get stronger and stronger defensively, as the closest Catholic came to the Scranton lead the rest of the way was nine points (46-37) to open the third quarter.
Up by 10 to start the fourth (60-50), Scranton put the game away with a 15-5 run over a seven minute span to go up 75-55 with three minutes to go.
From there, the Lady Royals put the game on ice the rest of the way, as Scranton celebrated the Landmark Conference title on their floor as the final buzzer sounded.
Overall, Alicea led three double-digit scorers with her 20-point afternoon, while also dishing out four assists. It was also just the second time on the season that Alicea hit 20 points in a game, falling just two points short of matching her career-high of 22 points.
Elsewhere, junior forward Sarah Payonk (Schwenksville, Pa./Spring-Ford) and freshman guard Bridgette Mann (Canadensis, Pa./Wallenpaupack) scored 17 points, apiece, to round out the double-digit scorers for Scranton.
Payonk, who was named the Landmark Conference Playoff Most Valuable Player after the game, notched her 11th double-double of the season after snatching 10 rebounds. It also marked the 19th time in the last 23 games that she has hit double-figures in the scoring department, as well.
For Mann, this caps off a banner three-game run against Catholic in 2016, as she scored 21, 20, and now 17 points against the Cardinals in their three match-ups. Mann also dished out a game-high eight assists, which matched a career-high for the Freshman.
Rounding out the top individuals for Scranton included junior forward Alexix Roman (Hawley, Pa./Wallenpaupack), who had just eight points, but pulled down a career-high 14 rebounds. Fellow junior Denise Rizzo (Paramus, N.J./Holy Angels) scored seven points off the bench on 3-of-4 shooting from the floor, as well.
Scranton will now await on who they will draw in the First Round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament, which will be announced on Monday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. on NCAA.com. The First Round will be played on Friday.
Stay tuned to athletics.scranton.edu for more information as it becomes available on the NCAA Tournament.