As Stephanie Knauer and the Shippensburg University Raiders women’s basketball squad filed out of the locker room at Pucillo Gymnasium, there was an extra hop in their step — a sudden realization that this team finally made the statement it needed heading into the PSAC playoffs.
Knauer notched her 12th double-double of the season, netting a team-high 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds while Dana Wert added another double-double to the SU arsenal as the Raiders took down former No. 2-seed Millersville University 72–62 on Wednesday night — solidifying a first-round bye in the PSAC playoffs.
“It’s awesome,” an energetic Knauer said after the game. “The bye is good but just being in second is what we were pushing for.”
That second-place position came with a mighty test from the Marauders, a team that was looking forward to sinking SU on its senior night. Despite scoring 33 of the team’s 62 points, SU held seniors Mashira Newman and Aurielle Mosley at bay with a strong defense effort — with a standout performance attributed to Knauer’s guarding of Mosley.
Knauer stopped Mosley — a popular pick for PSAC player of the year — throughout the majority of the game, causing her to slowly vent her frustrations as Knauer helped SU grip the game from the Marauder’s hands.
“Obviously she is a really good player, but I didn’t let it stop me from doing what I needed to do, and that was to stop her from scoring.” Knauer said.
Knauer knew Mosley would score, but limiting her scoring was going to be the turning point in the game. Throughout the first half Knauer kept her at bay, but Mosley was still able to guide her team to a 22–12 lead midway through the first half.
“We told her, ‘You’re not going to shut her out, but you’re going to have to contain her a little bit,” SU head coach Kristy Trn said.
Knauer and the Raiders turned up the throttle from there. The Raiders sailed out on a 15–2 run behind buckets from Shawna Wert, Caitlin Deeter and Mariah Traywick, forcing the Marauders back on their heels. Knauer contributed two of her 17 points off two of the team’s five free throws to culminate the run and give the Raiders a 27–24 lead heading into the half.
SU continued the bucket-parade in the second half. Sarah Strybuc hit a 3-pointer in the first few ticks of the half, and then re-emerged after two Marauders’ buckets with another 3-pointer to give the Raiders a 35–28 lead — prompting an MU timeout.
The charity stripe became a popular hang-out after the timeout. Throughout the next five minutes, the Wert twins and Knauer each earned trips to the line, extending the Raiders’ lead to 11. SU, after going to the line five times in the first half wound up hitting the charity stripe 20 times in the second half.
“They just started to get the calls. It got more obvious in the second half with the frustration of [MU] not being able to contain us going to the basket.” Trn said.
That frustration was evident midway through the second half after Shawna Wert gave the Raiders an 11-point lead. However, MU’s Miesha Cousins used SU’s strategy to her own advantage and garnered three-straight trips to the foul line. Her four free throws, accompanied by five points from Newman, brought the Marauders to a 50–50 deadlock with 7:52 left.
MU found that it awoke the sleeping beast. SU awoke with a punch.
SU netted back-to-back threes from Shawna Wert and Deeter. The six-point splurge was only the tip of the iceburg as the Raiders exploded on an 18–4 run, capped off by a gorgeous shot by Shawna Wert to extend SU’s lead to 68–54. The Marauders tried to rally but found themselves trading buckets en route to the 72–62 defeat.
Cousins finished the game with a double-double for MU, scoring 19 and collecting 11 rebounds. Mosley finished the game with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Newman finished the game with 17 points.
Five Raiders scored in double-digits during the contest. Knauer added to her impressive freshman campaign and will look to be a dominant presence in the post heading into the PSAC playoffs.
With the victory, SU will open its PSAC playoff campaign against either MU or East Stroudsburg University, Tuesday night, March 5 at Heiges Field House. For a complete playoff bracket, visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SLATESPORTS.