The Shippensburg University women’s basketball team’s season ended with a 66-58 loss to the Bloomsburg University Huskies Saturday afternoon at Heiges Field House.
The Raiders knew heading into the game that they were fighting for a spot in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) tournament. They battled the Huskies for four quarters, but ultimately their effort wasn’t enough to extend the season.
After defeating Mansfield University on Feb. 17, the Raiders gained a one-game conference record advantage, and therefore the sixth and final playoff spot in the PSAC Eastern Division, heading into the final week of games. The Raiders needed to take care of business and win both of their remaining games if they were to guarantee themselves a spot in the PSAC Tournament.
On Wednesday night, the Raiders traveled to West Chester University to battle the Golden Rams. The Raiders lost by the final score of 79–65, as they couldn’t overcome a slow start in which they were outscored 42–26 in the first half. Ariel Jones led SU with 26 points — her 15th game this season with 20 or more points. Despite losing on Wednesday night, the Raiders maintained control of the No. 6 seed in the PSAC Eastern Division, as Mansfield lost to Bloomsburg 62–44.
Saturday’s game against Bloomsburg was critical for the Raiders, who needed a win or a Mansfield loss to secure a tournament spot and the No. 6 seed in the PSAC Eastern Division.
Seniors Kristin McGeough and Victoria Blackburn were honored in a pre-game Senior Day ceremony. McGeough finished this season averaging 8.2 points and 7.5 rebounds to go along with 43 blocks, while Blackburn averaged 10.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game in her senior season.
The Raiders, contrary to their usual struggles starting games, got off to a hot start against Bloomsburg. After a slow, defense-oriented first four minutes of the game, the Raiders began to get something going on the offensive end. They proceeded to use crafty drives to the basket and superior post play to go on a 10–0 run in the middle of the quarter that built their lead up to 14–5. However, freshman guard Ariel Jones got into early foul trouble, resulting in her getting pulled from the game with four minutes remaining in the first quarter.
That is when freshman guard Lili Benzel stepped into the game and made her presence felt with a 3-pointer on her first possession of the game. The Raiders dominated the first quarter, 19–11, and turnovers played a big role. SU’s stifling defense forced seven Bloomsburg turnovers, and SU took advantage to get eight points off turnovers in the first quarter. Freshman Kryshell Gordy, four points and four rebounds, and McGeough, six points and two rebounds, led the way for SU in the first quarter.
SU struggled to make shots in the second quarter, even going nearly six minutes without making a field goal, and Bloomsburg took advantage to get back in the game. Mack made her second 3-pointer of the game to cut the SU lead to five, and then a successful trip to the free-throw line cut the lead to one possession. SU was outscored by the Huskies 13–8 in the quarter, but they still retained a small 27–24 lead going into halftime.
The Raiders’ struggles from the second quarter seemingly disappeared at halftime, as the team came out with a purpose in the opening minutes of the second half. Senior Victoria Blackburn, less than a minute after Jones picked up her third foul, went on a personal scoring run, hitting a layup and a 3-pointer to widen the lead to 35–28 halfway through the third quarter.
However, things began to go Bloomsburg’s way the rest of the quarter, beginning with a 6–0 Huskies run to close the gap to 40–36. Bloomsburg forward Marissa Molnar made a huge 3-pointer to make the game 40–39 with under two minutes left in the quarter. Then McGeough committed her third foul for Shippensburg, presenting a problem for coach Kristy Trn heading into the final quarter of play. Bloomsburg outscored SU 17–15 in the third quarter, but they were still down by one going into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter began as a back-and-forth affair, with both teams trading buckets and the lead. Less than three minutes into the quarter, Gordy committed her third foul. This played a big role in the outcome of the game, as SU’s bench was not able to provide much production throughout the game and most of their starters got into foul trouble. With just under six minutes remaining, McGeough hit a shot out from the post to make it 50–45 in favor of the Raiders. Gordy then committed her fourth foul of the game with 5:48 remaining.
In the following minute of the game, Bloomsburg took control with some hot mid-range shooting from center Lauren Oeth. SU attempted to battle back, but a 3-pointer from Mack with 4:18 left gave the Huskies a 54-52 lead that they would hold onto for good. The final minutes of the game consisted of Bloomsburg being in the bonus and heading to the line as SU repeatedly committed intentional fouls. Gordy was the first to foul out for SU, finishing the game with eight points and seven rebounds. The Raiders were still within striking distance with 24 seconds left, but a missed 3-point-shot from Jones sealed the game.