February 25, 2012

Muhlenberg Defends Title

Box Score

Muhlenberg 74, Johns Hopkins 53

It's been said that some things never get old. And for the Muhlenberg women's basketball team, that adage holds true when it comes to winning. The same could also be said about senior Alexandra Chili and scoring.

Both the Mules and Chili proved that once again as they saved some of their best performances for just the right time, beating Johns Hopkins, 74-53, to win their second straight Centennial Conference championship. It's the record seventh title in program history and fifth in the last seven seasons; no other school has more than four.

In the process, Chili became the leading scorer in CC women's basketball history. She finished with a game-high 28 points, the most by a Mule in postseason history, to move her career total to 1,966, just seven points shy of the conference record for men or women.

Naddaff made a layup for the first points of the game, and the Mules never trailed. "It's such a tremendous honor to break the scoring record. It means even more to break it in a championship game that was all about the total team effort," said Chili. "This win was not about any one person. We came out and took control from the start, and after we got ahead we were not going to be denied."

The win avenged a pair of regular-season losses to the Blue Jays (23-4) and secured Muhlenberg's fifth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Muhlenberg (22-5), which will learn where it will go for the NCAA Tournament during Monday's selection show, jumped out to a 10-point lead less than seven minutes into the game. And every time the Blue Jays tried to make a comeback, the Mules responded.

Hopkins cut the deficit to four at the 17:14 mark of the second half, but Muhlenberg used a 12-3 run to get its lead back to double digits, where it stayed for good.

The Mules held the Blue Jays to a season-low 22.7 percent shooting from the field and are just the second team to reach the 70-point mark against them this year.

Chili added 10 rebounds to pick up her second straight double-double, helping the Class of 2012 tie the Class of 2009 for the school record for career wins with 92. Chili and classmates Kathleen Naddaff (6 points, 1 block), Kimberly Mui (3 steals) and Katy Rossino also became just the second class in school history to go to four NCAA Tournaments and the fourth to win three CC crowns.

"Winning the conference championship has been one of our goals since the beginning of the season," said Chili, who dished out a team-high four assists. "We may have hit some rough patches this year, but we came through when we needed to."

Junior Alita Zabrecky added 15 points and eight rebounds, and classmate Kate Clawson and sophomore Erin Laney chipped in six and seven points, respectively.

It's the eighth trip to the NCAA Tournament in program history. And the perfect icing on top, Chili said, was that the Mules beat the Blue Jays at their own game.

"They really out-physicaled us and beat us up the first two times we played," she said. "So we wanted to come out and match their intensity, and I think we actually played tougher than them tonight. If we play like this next week, I think we have a really good chance to make a run.

"This is my last conference championship, so I'd have to say it's the best. And nothing beats getting on that ladder and cutting down someone else's nets."

Stephanie Fong led the Blue Jays with 10 points, six rebounds and nine assists.