Lady Bears Advance to Elite Eight
March 13, 2012 – The timing may have been slightly different - last year the two met in the first round of the NCAA Tournament - but the ending was the same: Shaw downing nationally ranked Edinboro on their way to an NCAA Atlantic Region title.
This year, the two met in the regional finals, but the Lady Bears still sent the home fans home unhappy as they defeated third-ranked and top seed Edinboro 70-53 at McComb Field House on the Edinboro campus.
With the win, Shaw (26-6) advances to the Elite Eight for the second straight year. Last year, the team advanced to the Final Four for the first time in program history.
"It was a heck of a game," said Shaw head coach Jacques Curtis. "We know they liked to get up and down. The key was not turning the ball over. I'm just glad to be advancing."
Senior guard Allyssa Lane, who led all scorers with 17 points, said this year's win was different. "Last year it was important to win. But as a senior, this year it means everything."
With Crystal Harris - one of Shaw's key "bigs" - home for the funeral of her grandmother, the Bears were forced to play Kyria Buford and Aslea Williams for longer minutes, and to go smaller, with point guards Lane and Brittney Spencer sharing more time on the floor together.
All four wound up scoring in double digits with Buford being named to the All-Tournament team and Williams being named MVP.
"This group is team," said Curtis. "You don't know on any given night who will step up. Without Crystal, our rotation got screwed up. Normally no one plays over 25 minutes, but tonight Aslea played 34. And Allyssa had 17 points. We knew our guards had to step up tonight.
"You never know how they'll react," he continued. "Their response was 'it's on us to get Crystal another game.' "
Buford encapsulated the game well: "In the first half I thought it wasn't looking too good, but at halftime we just kept saying, 'rebound and hold them to one shot.'"
In the first half it wasn't looking too good for the Lady Bears. Edinboro built a five-point lead early, and while Shaw cut the deficit to one twice, they could never get the basket that would give them a lead.
With 9:59 left in the first half, Kiara Brown - also a member of the All-Tournament Team - hit a jumper on the left wing to give the Lady Fighting Scots a 19-10 lead.
Still trailing by nine at the 5:38 mark, Spencer stole the ball and caught Lane slashing through the lane for an easy layup and started a six-point run. With 4:14 left in the half, Williams got a layup of her own to cut the Shaw deficit to three, 21-18.
With 1:02 showing on the clock, Lane found Buford under the bucket for a layup that trimmed the Edinboro lead to only one, but Micki Cerchiaro hit a three to give the Lady Fighting Scots a 28-24 lead at the half.
The key for Edinboro in the first had been offensive rebounds. They outrebounded the Lady Bears 26-17, including 14 offensive rebounds that led to 13 second chance points.
The Bears would, as Buford put it "rebound and hold them to one shot" in the second. Edinboro got only 15 rebounds in the second half, and scored only four second chance points, while Shaw pulled in 24 rebounds in the second.
Shaw opened the second half with a six-point scoring run - four of those from Buford - before Edinboro found the scoreboard.
With 16:07 left in the game, Brown hit a layup to give Edinboro a 34-33 lead - the last time they would have the advantage all evening. Over the next six minutes, the Lady Bears went on a 15-2 run. With 10:32 remaining, Spencer got a steal and went the length of the court for an easy layup and a 48-36 lead.
Edinboro would rally for a quick six-point run, but Shaw answered with a nine-point run, putting the game out of reach. The Lady Fighting Scots would not get within single digits the rest of the game.
Lane's 17 points were accompanied by five assists - and somewhat surprisingly for someone listed in the program at 4-11 (she says she's 5-1) - six rebounds.
"I don't think my size is a disadvantage," Lane said. "I feel the big people don't want to get down here with me. It gives me the edge."
Spencer added 15 for the Lady Bears as well as four assists. Williams had a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds and Buford had 13 points and eight rebounds.
Brown was the only Edinboro player in double digits with 14 points. Raven Metz had 11 rebounds and three assists to lead the Lady Fighting Scots in both categories. Edinboro ends its season with a 30-2 record.
Shaw now advances to play 27-5 Pittsburg (Kans.) State at 6:00 p.m., Tuesday, March 20 at Bill Greehey Arena in San Antonio, Tex.