MORRISTOWN, N.J. – Senior guard Noelle Grande hit a 3-pointer and made a game-sealing steal in the final minute to keep Saint Elizabeth’s postseason hopes alive as the homestanding Screaming Eagles held off Gallaudet 66-61 on Saturday afternoon in St. Joseph’s Hall.
With the victory, Saint Elizabeth (9-12, 7-8 NEAC) pulls a half game ahead of Penn State Abington in the NEAC South Division for fourth place. The Screaming Eagles remain a half game behind idle Penn State Berks (7-7) for third place. The top three teams in the South Division make the NEAC post-season tournament. In 2012, CSE made its first-ever appearance in the NEAC playoffs.
On Saturday, the Screaming Eagles again showed their support for the Think Pink campaign, donning pink shirts, head bands, socks and in some cases, hair color, helping to again raise awareness for the fight against breast cancer.
The game was tied 53-53 with four minutes remaining when Gallaudet’s Alexa Justus nailed a short jumper in the lane while getting fouled. She missed the ensuing attempt from the charity stripe but the Bison still held its first lead of the afternoon.
CSE freshman guard Amerisse Rogers made one of two from the free-throw line but the Bison turned to guard Claire Tucker who would hit her last four shots on the way to a game-high 28 points.
After Tucker sank another short jumper to put the Bison up by three points with 3:31, CSE freshman wing Sharolin Sanders nailed a deep 3-pointer from in front of the team bench to tie the score at 57-57.
On the next Bison possession, forward Lindsay Stergio snagged an offensive rebound and nailed a hanging jumper from the left baseline at 2:59.
After a CSE timeout, Sanders fed classmate NaQuell Simmons in traffic and the forward deftly finished off the glass to knot the score at 59-59.
On the next, senior Kelly O’Dell dug in at the high post and picked up her game-high eighth steal of the night. After getting fouled, O’Dell made one of her two free-throw attempts to put CSE up, 60-59.
After grabbing a missed shot, the Bison called timeout. Tucker came off a screen and hit a tough runner on the baseline to put Gallaudet up 61-60.
CSE sophomore Valerie Lasko missed an elbow jumper and the Bison called another time out after getting the rebound and advancing the ball into the front court.
After a Bison miss, Gallaudet set up a baseline out-of-bounds play. CSE freshman Sharolin Sanders tipped away the inbounds pass and the Screaming Eagles raced up the floor. The ball swung around to the left wing where Grande caught a pass from classmate Cheyenne Grant in rhythm and drilled her only 3-pointer of the game. It was a big one, igniting the crowd as CSE took a two-point lead with 59 seconds on the clock.
Clark made another steal – one of 18 by CSE on the day – and Screaming Eagles head coach Nicole Degenhardt took her final timeout with 47 seconds left. Again, CSE went into the post where Simmons finished in traffic with 22 seconds left for a four-point lead.
After a Bison timeout, Grande stepped in front of the inbounds pass and raced into the front court. CSE ran off some clock and after getting fouled, Rogers hit one of two free-throw attempts to seal a second straight victory for the Screaming Eagles.
Sanders led CSE with a career-high 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go along with five rebounds. Rogers tallied 12 points and six assists while Simmons added 10 points.
For Gallaudet (5-17, 3-12 NEAC), Tucker hit 14-of-26 attempts for her 28 points. Stergio contributed a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
At the onset, CSE scored off an inbounds play when Rogers found Clark for a jumper and 10-8 lead.
The Screaming Eagles rattled off a 15-10 over the next 10 minutes to open up a 25-18 lead after Rogers converted a fast-break layup off a feed from O’Dell at 4:43.
Sanders provided a spark for the Screaming Eagles off the bench. She grabbed an offensive rebound at 2:31 and put the ball in the hoop for a 27-18 lead. With 39 seconds left in the half, Sanders drilled one of her 3-pointers and sent CSE in the locker room up 32-20.
CSE is back in St. Joseph’s Hall on Sunday for more NEAC action. Penn State-Harrisburg, in second place in the South Division, visits for a 1 p.m. game. After traveling to Penn State-Abington on Friday, Feb. 15, the Screaming Eagles will host Senior Day during their regular-season finale with Lancaster Bible on Saturday, Feb. 16. Tip-off is slated for 1 p.m.