As the old sports adage says, “defense wins championships.” This especially held true on Saturday, Feb. 23, as the Lady Cavaliers beat the Gwynedd-Mercy College Lady Griffins, 49-38 in a defensively sound game to capture their sixth Colonial States Athletic Conference title, and their first since 2009.
The win automatically sends the Lady Cavs to the NCAA Tournament as representatives of the CSAC. They are scheduled to find out their first-round opponent on Monday.
“We have a group that has been here the last couple years and really worked hard to get to this point,” fourth-year head coach Kate Pearson said. “We knew we would get here, it’s just a little bit of patience.”
The 762 fans, mainly clad in Cabrini blue, knew the teams were in for a defensive battle early on. It took four minutes for either team to record a point, after junior guard Jordan Dominic recorded a three-pointer to put the Lady Griffins on the board. The Lady Cavs tied the game at five shortly thereafter and never looked back from there.
The Lady Cavs led throughout the rest of the contest, with their largest lead being 18 points midway through the second half. They shot 32 percent from the floor and made 27 percent of their shots from beyond the three-point line. However, the Lady Griffins were not as accurate, shooting 27 percent from the floor and hitting eight percent of three-point shots.
In what came as a “surprise” to junior forward Annie Rivituso, as she was named Most Valuable Player, after a performance that saw her score 11 points and grab nine rebounds, one shy of a double-double. She played in 34 of the game’s 40 minutes, second only to teammate Laura Caron’s 37 minutes.
“We all played together as a team,” Rivituso said. “My teammates all got me the ball, and I guess I put it in the basket the best that I could.”
Rivituso was not the only Lady Cav in double figures on the evening, as junior guard Brittany Sandone recorded a team-high 14 points. Gwynedd-Mercy was led by sophomore forward Shea Wassel’s 13 points and 18 rebounds in addition to junior guard Lauren Smith’s two assists.
In addition to the sixth CSAC title in program history, the Lady Cavs also reached another historic feat. The win was the 19th consecutive win on the season, good enough for the new record in the history of the program. While the record is an eminent accomplishment, Pearson maintains that the championship is still the team’s ultimate goal.
“That wasn’t really on our radar, but everyone kept asking me about the streak and it’s great,” Pearson said. “Our end goal was the championship, and [the streak] just came secondary.”
The Lady Cavs are confident they have what it takes to take the next step forward in the NCAA Tournament and win the final game of the women’s basketball season. With a 19-game winning streak and a clean sweep of conference opponents this season, there is little room for doubt that the players on the team have what it takes.
“I’m just really proud of them and really happy for them, and they came through this year very well,” Pearson said.