The Shippensburg University women’s basketball team’s conference tournament run ended on Saturday with a 74-58 loss to Gannon University in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Semifinals at IUP’s Kovalchick Complex. Despite winning the PSAC Eastern Division, their early exit in the tournament puts them at a major risk of missing out on an at-large bid into the NCAA Division II tournament.
The Raiders (21-9, 17-5 PSAC) got off to a slow start on Saturday, allowing Gannon to open up the game on an 11-2 run. SU found themselves behind 24-12 after the first quarter of play. The Raiders shot just 23.5% in the first quarter while also committing seven turnovers.
“Gannon is strong, and big, and they took it to us,” said SU head coach Kristy Trn. “They came after us hard and I think that affected us right from the start. They played physical and went after it on the boards. We could not match their effort.”
The Raiders entered the game as the best rebounding team in the PSAC, while Gannon came in allowing the fewest rebounds per game. Gannon won the rebounding battle 34-30 on Saturday.
Gannon’s offense controlled the pace and flow of the game for much of the action. The Raiders did not respond to Gannon’s physicality on either end of the flood, according to Trn. Gannon took advantage as a result, shooting 51.7% from the field and scoring 48 points in the paint.
The Raiders’ offense improved in the second half as the team attempted to rally to get back into the game. They shot the ball 42.9% from the field in the second half, opening on a 9-5 run. However, Gannon’s offense kept pounding away and the closest the Raiders came to tying the game was nine points.
Sophomore Tori Obenrader and senior Chelsea Rourke led Gannon’s efficient offensive effort. Rourke finished with a game-high 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field and 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point range. Obenrader added 18 points and seven rebounds.
For the Raiders, junior Ariel Jones led the way with 18 points, including going 3-of-6 from 3-point range, and four rebounds. Sophomore Aunbrielle Green, despite struggling at times on both ends of the floor, added in 15 points and five rebounds. Sophomore Lauren Pettis contributed nine points and four rebounds, including three offensive rebounds, off the bench.
The Raiders, due to their early exit from the PSAC Tournament, will most likely be looking from the outside in once the NCAA Division II tournament begins. However, Trn is still proud of how her team performed throughout this season.
“When we’re able to get past the disappointment of today and look at what we’ve accomplished and see where we’ve come from, we should be happy considering what we’ve gone through the last two years,” Trn said after the loss to Gannon.
Shippensburg, within a span of two years, went from a team finishing 7-21 in the 2017-18 season to becoming a 20-win team that made it to the semifinals of the PSAC Tournament.
The Raiders, armed with the same core group of players as this season, will be looking to build on the success they had throughout this season.
“We can certainly continue to build off this season, because we don’t lose anyone from this squad,” Trn said. “To have 21 wins and a division championship, I’m really proud of that.”