Brandeis Tops Muhlenberg in NCAA Round of 16; Will Face Host Amherst in Round of 8

AMHERST, MA – The Brandeis University and Muhlenberg College women’s basketball teams squared off on the campus of Amherst College in the Sectional Semifinal round of the 2009 NCAA Division III National Championship tournament. Brandeis led nearly the entire game, coasting home for an 82-70 win to advance to the Round of 8.

Brandeis started the game off with a quick three-pointer from the left corner by Diana Cincotta (West Boylston, MA) after winning the opening tip. Muhlenberg responded with a pair of scores inside, and a pair of free throws, to take a 6-5 less than two minutes into the game.

After five minutes of play, Brandeis held a slim 13-10 edge, with Cassidy Dadaos (Healdsburg, CA) having made her first three shots to lead the team with six early points. The Judges’ lead grew to 15-10 a few minutes later when Jessica Chapin (Mendon, NY) made a long two-point jumper.  

Muhlenberg was held scoreless for over five minutes of game time, before a failed three-point play by Dadaos led to a three by teammate Lauren Orlando (Peabody, MA). The five-point possession helped the Judges open up a 22-10 lead, just seconds before the mid-point of the half.

With 7:42 to play, Muhlenberg’s Erin McSherry (Montclair, NJ) score on a nice post move to end the Mules’ nearly eight-minute scoring drought. A lay-up from Brandeis’ Amber Strodthoff (DePere, WI) at the 4:32 mark put the Judges up 20 points, 36-16.

With just over three minutes to play in the first half, Chapin was whistled for her third personal foul, sending her to the bench with nine points and five rebounds. With the Brandeis leading scorer on the bench to close the half, Muhlenberg went to work. The Mules closed the first half on an 8-0 run to head to the locker room trailing 36-24.

At the break, Dadaos led all players with 10 points, while Chapin was close behind with nine. Alexandra Chili (Rockville, MD) led the Mules with six points, while four teammates scored four apiece.

After the Judges scored the first two baskets of the second half, a three from Muhlenberg’s Alexis Bates (Monroe, CT) and a score from Kelly McKeon (Watertown, CT) in transition gave the Mules a 5-0 run. Brandeis quickly responded with a 5-0 run of their own to open up a 45-29 lead.

Muhlenberg closed the gap to 11 points with an 11-4 run, capped by a score inside by McKeon. With 11:57 to play, the Judges called a timeout, still holding a 51-40 lead. Minutes later, Chili drilled a three from the top of the key to keep the Mules down a dozen at 57-45.

A pair of free throws from Muhlenberg’s Sheila Cook (Rockville Centre, NY) with 8:01 to play closed the gap to 10 points at 59-49. With a long two from Lauren Boyle (Wantage, NJ) on the next trip, the Mules closed the deficit to single digits for the first time since trailing 19-10 with 10:27 to play in the first half.

After holding a nine point lead for the next six minutes, Chapin finished a tough three-point play for Brandeis to put the Judges up 67-55. On the next three possessions, the Mules traded a pair of threes with a single long-ball for Brandeis. Muhlenberg called a timeout with 3:45 to play, still trailing 70-61.

The Mules forced turnovers from Brandeis on each of the next two possessions, but came up empty on offense, as the game clock ticked towards the two-minute mark. Muhlenberg was forced to foul Brandeis down the stretch, and hope to trade scores for missed free throws.

The Judges made free throws down the stretch, running out the clock on an 82-70 win. At game’s end, McKeon led all players with 25 points, 11 rebounds and five assists for Muhlenberg. Chapin led five Brandeis players in double-digits with 17 points. She was joined by Dadaos (14), Orlando (13), Cincotta (12) and Morgan Kendrew (Cotuit, MA) (11).

With the victory, the Judges improve to 20-7 on the year, while Muhlenberg’s season ends with a 26-4 record. The Mules advance to tomorrow’s Sectional Final, where they will await the winner of this evening’s Amherst-NYU game for a shot at a spot in the 2009 “Final Four” next weekend.