ARLINGTON, Va. - The top two teams in the Atlantic East Conference will clash on Saturday afternoon at 2PM for the right to hoist the first-ever Atlantic East women's basketball trophy, as top-seeded Marymount University hosts second-seeded Cabrini University in the Converse Family Fieldhouse.
How We Got Here:
The Saints (21-5) earned the top seed in the tournament with an 11-1 record in league play in the regular season, solidifying No. 1 in the tournament with a victory over Cabrini in the regular-season finale, 66-50. With a first-round bye in the tournament, the Saints took on fifth-seeded Immaculata University in the semifinals on Thursday night, rolling to a 56-35 decision. Defense was key in the contest, as Marymount held the Mighty Macs to just one point in the first quarter and not allowing a field goal until the 7:58 mark of the second. Freshman Katie McShea led the squad with her 10th double-double of the season with a game-high 16 points and game-high 10 rebounds. Junior Gabriella Haddad knocked in 12 points to go along with eight rebounds.
How They Got Here:
The Cavaliers (17-9) rocked an 11-1 conference record through the regular season with their only loss coming to the Saints in the regular-season finale, making them the No. 2 seed in the tournament. Also receiving a first-round bye, Cabrini hosted third-seeded Marywood University on Thursday night in the Nerney Field House, needing overtime to solidify its spot in the title game. A close game throughout, it took a three-pointer with eight seconds remaining by the Pacers to send the game to extra time. However, the Cavs outscored Marywood, 11-1, in extra time to win, 78-68. Senior Nomi Washington led the team with game-high 24 points.
Last Time We Met:
The two teams met up in the Converse Family Fieldhouse on February 16 in the final game of the regular season, as the Saints needed a four-plus point victory to take the tiebreaker rule and seal up the top seed. Marymount did much more than that, riding a lead the entire way and getting the spread up to as much as 23 points, as they took the 66-50 decision. McShea shined in the game with 23 points on 9-for-14 shooting, while senior Tyffani McQueen dropped in 19 points, with her last basket being her 1,000-point tally on her Senior Day.
The two squads split their regular season games, as Cabrini won on its home court on January 23, 54-51, and Marymount drew the series even on February 16 with a 66-50 decision. McShea has been the critical factor in the paint for the Saints in the two games, as she has totaled 40 points on 50-percent shooting while adding 21 rebounds. Scoring 17 points in the first showing and 23 in the regular-season finale, both games she was the leading scorer. Defensively in both games, the Saints have held Cabrini's leading scorer, Washington, to 10 points or less, keeping her almost four points or more under her average. In the first game that the Saints fell short, Washington scored 10 points, shooting 33 percent. In the second game, Marymount eliminated her from the game entirely, allowing just four points from the senior forward on 2-for-11 shooting.
Streaking At The Right Time:
The last Saints' loss was to Cabrini on January 23. Since then, they have have put together a seven-game win streak where they are defeating opponents by an average of 30.4 points per game. They are shooting 44.4 percent from the floor in the stretch, knocking in 181 baskets. Defensively, they have totaled 74 steals, while they rank second in the conference in steals with 290. The only team in front of them is Cabrini with 314.
The winner of Saturday's title game will be named the first-ever Atlantic East Conference women's basketball champion. Due to the conference being newly formed, there is no automatic qualifier into the NCAA tournament until the third year of competition. However, there are still opportunities to receive an at-large bid to the big dance, which will be announced on Monday at 2:30 p.m.