REPEAT, Hens fend off Drexel, capture second-straight championship
NCAA: Lady Hens open tournament West Virgina on Sunday in Newark
Published: Monday, March 18, 2013
Updated: Monday, March 18, 2013 22:03
UPPER MARLBORO, Md. – After taking the lead with 16:19 remaining in the first half of the CAA Women’s Championship Final, top seed Delaware went on to lead by as many as 17 points during its matchup with Drexel.
The Dragons fought hard to overcome the deficit, as guard Hollie Mershon led her team all the way back to tie the game at 53 with 1:55 remaining. A corner 3-point conversion from forward Taylor Wootton gave the Dragons a 56-55 advantage with 1:12 left to play Sunday at the Show Place Arena.
On the next possession, Delaware senior guard Trumae Lucas drew a controversial blocking foul on Drexel forward Abby Redick on the left low block. With the conference championship on the line, Lucas swished both free throw attempts to permanently return the lead to Delaware.
Lucas, who was named to the All-Tournament team, said the magnitude of the moment did not faze her.
“I stepped up to the line, and I was confident that I was going to knock them down and my teammates were 100 percent behind me,” Lucas said. “So, no I didn’t think about the fact that I needed to put us back in the lead. I just shot them like they were regular free throws.”
With the shot clock winding down on the next Drexel possession, Redick was called for traveling while attempting to pass the ball to teammate Rachel Pearson for an uncontested 3-point attempt. The Dragons then put Delle Donne on the line and watched her convert two free throws with 9.9 seconds on the clock to push the Hens’ lead to 59-56.
Drexel had one final opportunity to tie the game, but Lucas knocked the ball out of Mershon’s hands before she could attempt a shot. Delle Donne picked up the loose ball and launched it down court as time expired.
After the game, Delle Donne said Drexel’s high ball screens and ability to shoot the basketball caused issues for the Hens on defense.
“You have to guard all the shooters,” Delle Donne said. “You don’t have great helps-side, so Hollie, who can take it to the basket, is definitely hard to defend because we’re not in help-side like usual where I can just sit in the paint a little bit and rely on my teammates to play their great defense.”
The Hens allowed Wootton to score the first bucket of the contest on a short-range jump shot from the right block. Delaware responded by going on a 13-3 run that was capped off by a 3-pointer from Delle Donne with 13:31 to play in the first half.
After Delle Donne sunk the shot, she pumped her fists as her teammates mobbed her in celebration. Drexel called a timeout while the large contingent of Delaware faithful cheered relentlessly at the Hens’ early 13-5 advantage. Delle Donne said she did not want to hold back any emotions during the final CAA matchup of her career.
“After watching me for four years, you probably know that I’m not like a crazy emotional player,” Delle Donne said. “Sometimes I feel there’s moments in the game to do that to get my teammates going, and I think when I do it, it probably gets them a little pumped up.”
Hens head coach Tina Martin then subbed in Lucas for junior guard Akeema Richards. Lucas scored the next eight points for Delaware, pushing the lead to 21-9. The Dragons fought back to cut the deficit to one point, until Delaware senior guard Kayla Miller put back a missed 3-point attempt from Lucas as time expired to give the Hens a 30-27 lead at the break.
Delaware began the second half with a 16-2 run, which gave the team its largest advantage of the game. However, Drexel’s 3-point shooting enabled the Dragons to come all the way back and tie the game late.
Senior guard Lauren Carra said although Drexel’s hot shooting made the score close, she still believed in her team’s ability to pull out the victory.
“Being on this team and having seven seniors on this team and having the experience we do, you don’t really get that feeling,” Carra said. “Yeah, you see the score going, but I feel that we’re all confident in each other in that we’re going to make the plays.”
Drexel benefited from four different players making 3-point attempts, including Wootton, who converted on 4 of her 5 long-range opportunities. Delaware outrebounded the Dragons 30-27, as Carra pulled in 10 boards.
With Sunday’s victory, Delaware receives an automatic bid to the 2013 NCAA Tournament and will play West Virgina at the Bob Carpenter Sports Center on Sunday at noon.
Although the Hens were given the No. 6 seed, Delle Donne said it is more important to begin her final NCAA Tournament at home.
“I’m not paying attention to the seed,” Delle Donne said. “Last year, we had a great seed, and we fell short. So I don’t think seeds really matters at this point. It’s March Madness, anything can happen.”