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Women's Basketball Falls to No. 18 Christopher Newport in NCAA First Round, 63-50

Sierra Berkel
Sierra Berkel

ASHLAND, Va. – The Haverford College women's basketball team dropped its contest in the NCAA Tournament First Round on Friday, falling to No. 18 Christopher Newport by a final score of 63-50 at Crenshaw Gymnasium on the campus of Randolph-Macon College.

The Fords were making their second appearance in the NCAA tournament and first since the 2013-14 campaign. Haverford ends its season with a 21-7 record, the second-highest win total in program history. Christopher Newport improves to 24-4 and will face host Randolph-Macon on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Regional Final. 

The Fords were led on Friday by senior forward Sierra Berkel, as the co-captain matched a career best with a game-high 24 points and added 14 rebounds.

The contest was a tale of two halves as the Fords shot just 19 percent in the opening 20 minutes before responding with a 41.9 percent effort in the second. Haverford outscored Christopher Newport 33-30 in the second half of play. 

Haverford grabbed an early lead in the contest, pulling out to a 7-2 advantage as Berkel hit a layup and Samantha Wetzel finished one-of-two from the charity stripe. An 8-0 run for Christopher Newport put the Captains up by two, with Micah Maloney hitting a three-pointer and converting a layup to put a flourish on the stretch.

Kiana Kirkland and Mackenzie Fancher connected on three-point attempts to put the Captains up by seven with 51 seconds left in the first period. Macy Goldbach responded with a jumper, but Bailey Dufrene restored the seven point lead for Christopher Newport with a layup at the end of the first half.

The Captains stretched the advantage to 16 at 28-12 with just 4:21 remaining in the first half before Berkel was fouled and sank a pair of free throws. Kirkland again connected from downtown to put Christopher Newport up 33-14 with 3:02 left, but Berkel completed a three-point play for Haverford in the final seconds of the half. The Fords headed for the locker room down 33-17.

Haverford began to chip away at the Captains advantage in the third quarter, as Berkel converted a layup with 5:30 left in the period to cut the Christopher Newport lead to just 11, prompting a timeout.  Madison Howdyshell made a pair from the free-throw line but a mid-range jumper from Megan Furch helped the Fords keep up the pace. 

Haverford scored its next four from the free-throw line, cutting the lead to just eight at 40-32. A 6-0 run for CNU restored a 14-point lead, but Berkel finished a layup in the closing seconds of the stanza as Haverford entered the final quarter trailing by 12 at 46-34.

Neither team was able to find a bucket in the early goings of the fourth quarter, with Berkel converting the first field goal with six minutes remaining in regulation. After a 5-0 spurt for the Captains, Katie Cook sank Haverford's first three-pointer of the contest. Julianna Clark hit a trey with 3:01 to play, but another 5-0 run for the Captains led to a Haverford timeout with the Fords now facing a 20-point deficit.

Clark connected on two more three-pointers in the final two minutes and Goldbach delivered one at the buzzer as the Fords ended the contest on a 9-2 run, trimming the final margin to 13. 

Haverford was able to limit the turnover margin to just three in favor of the Captains despite the aggressive full-court defense employed by CNU. Christopher Newport held just a slim 38-36 rebounding advantage, but was able to build a lead with three-point shooting, converting 8-19 from beyond the arc on the evening.

Wetzel added six rebounds and two blocks for the Fords while Katie Cook dished out five assists. Anna-Sophia Capizzi had a career-high three steals.

Christopher Newport, a squad making its 19th tournament appearance, had three scorers in double figures. Maloney and Kirkland had 12 points each while Anitra Thomas had 11. Maloney and Jasmine Bonivel each had six rebounds.

The 2017-18 campaign will go down as one of the most memorable in the history of the Haverford program, as the Fords tallied the second most wins in program history with 21 and saw seniors Berkel and Wetzel made their mark on the program's career and single-season leaderboards, with the pair ultimately both ascending to the top of multiple categories and reaching the 1,000-point plateau. Ultimately, the pair of co-captains was able to guide the team to the larger goal of an NCAA tournament berth.