Championship trophy stays in Moon
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Robert Morris punched its ticket Sunday to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year and the third time in the past four seasons, sending the Bryant Bulldogs to the doghouse with a 65-52 win.
Not only did the Colonials win the conference tournament championship, they sent the Charles L. Sewall Center off in historic fashion, with the last game in the arena being championship win.
However, it was a rocky start for the Colonials as they were un-RMU-like, missing their first four layups.
Senior guard Anna Niki Stamolamprou had a simple answer as to how the team dealt with the early misses, “We just had to stay aggressive, that was just it,” Stamolamprou said.
Head coach, Charlie Buscaglia gave credit to how this season’s team operates for how they handled the early scoring mishaps.
“It’s not that we’re just a good defensive team, and that we pride ourselves on our defense. We didn’t let the offensive struggle early on, affect us mentally defensively,” Buscaglia said.
RMU used its mental toughness that Buscaglia emphasized during the postgame press conference to get the offense back on the track.
After being down 7-9 with 5:19 to play in the opening quarter, the Colonials went on an 11-0 run, grabbing an 18-7 lead. The outburst in scoring featured Stamolamprou and fellow senior guard, Rebeca Navarro who combined for 13 of the team’s 18-point first quarter points.
The senior leaders Sunday, went on to finish as RMU’s leading scorers. Stamolamprou went 7-of-17 shooting for 23 points. Navarro finished 5-of-9 with 12 points.
Bryant cut its deficit to four points after its first bucket of the second quarter which came on a Morgan Orlander jump-shot but the Colonials built themselves another double-digit lead. Buscaglia saw his team’s lead soar to 33-16 as the Colonials strong defensive presence was in full force as Bryant was held to only four fourth-quarter points.
Not only was Stamolamprou active offensively, but rather defensively, corralling nine eight defensive boards.
Bryant answered back coming out of the locker room after halftime by scoring 13 third quarter points but still found themselves down 46-29 going into the potential final quarter of the contest.
With their season at stake, the Bulldogs increased the pressure on RMU’s offense by initiating a full-court press during the fourth quarter. The change in intensity seemed to rattle the Colonials as they saw their double-digit lead change to an eight point 51-43 game after two free throws from Alex Klein with 4:04 left to play.
However, a layup from junior center, Mikalah Mulrain gave the Colonials their double-digit lead back with 3:20 left on the clock. The Colonials showed the RMU faithful that they had their mojo back as Stamolamprou and Navarro raised their arms in a “pumping-up” motion towards the crowd as the Sewall Center previously quieted as Bryant was pushing towards a comeback.
Junior Megan Smith quieted the Bulldogs and their fan section with a three-point shot with a little over a minute remaining, making it a 62-48 game.
The Sewall Center crowd remained on their feet when they saw senior, Janee Brown check into the game for the remaining 12 seconds that read on the clock. The senior has missed the previous two postseason games with an injury, sustained in the team’s last regular season contest against Fairleigh Dickinson.
Brown knew beforehand, that if the score reached a certain point, she could find herself on the court.
“I knew we had to be up by a certain amount of points and I would get the chance to touch the court so it was good to do that,” Brown said.
Brown also didn’t count herself out of playing in the team’s NCAA Tournament game when asked about her future playing status.
Robert Morris will find out its next opponent during the Women’s NCAA Tournament selection show Monday evening.