SCRANTON, PA. - A comeback bid by the University of Scranton women's basketball team fell just short on Saturday evening, as Tufts advanced to the 2016 NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Final Four with a 57-48 victory over the host Lady Royals inside the John Long Center.
Despite dropping the contest, Scranton posted a season for the record books, as their 30-0 start is unmatched in program history. The team also posted the first 30-win season in 23 seasons (1992-93 was the last) and advanced to the Quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2008-09 season.
On Saturday, a slow start hampered the Lady Royals, as the visiting Jumbos lept out to a 15-5 lead at the end of the first quarter. The struggles continued for Scranton in the second quarter, as the Jumbos extended the lead out to 16 points at 30-14 late in the period.
A banked in three by senior guard Noelle Alicea (Downingtown, Pa./Downingtown East) at the buzzer did give the Lady Royals some life going into intermission, but Tufts went into the break up 30-16.
In the second half, Scranton slowly began to creep back into the game, as an 11-4 run in the middle of the quarter sliced the Tufts lead all the way down to three points (38-35) with two minutes left. But, the Jumbos answered, scoring the final five points of the period to go up 43-35 entering the fourth quarter.
After a Jumbos two put them up by 10 yet again to begin the fourth (45-35), the Lady Royals went on a furious 10-0 run over the next three minutes to tie the game for the first time since early in the first quarter at 45-all with 6:53 left in regulation.
But, Tufts proceeded to punch back yet again, going on a 10-0 run of their own over the next three and half minutes to take an insurmountable 55-45 lead with three minutes left.
Scranton did not have another run left in them, as the Lady Royals bowed out of the NCAA Tournament with the nine point defeat, capping off a magical season for the ballclub.
Overall, the Lady Royals were led in the defeat by junior forward Alexix Roman (Hawley, Pa./Wallenpaupack) who had a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Freshman guard Bridgette Mann (Canadensis, Pa./Wallenpaupack Area) chipped in with 11 points and junior forward Sarah Payonk (Schwenksville, Pa./Spring-Ford) added 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Senior guard Jaclyn Gantz (Havertown, Pa./Haverford) and Alicea ended their career scoring eight and six points, respectively. In all, the guards end their careers at Scranton winners of 99 total games and two Landmark Conference Championships, with four bids to the NCAA Tournament, a trip to the Sweet 16 and a trip to the Elite Eight.
Tufts was led in the victory by forward Melissa Baptista, who poured in a game high 23 points.