KINGS POINT, N.Y. (Feb. 21, 2019) – For the first time in program history, the USMMA women's basketball team will play for a conference championship, as the #2-seed Mariners defeated visiting #6-seed Farmingdale State in the Skyline Tournament Semifinals, 64-35, on Thursday evening inside the Liebertz Gymnasium. With the victory, the Mariners improve to 21-3 overall, while the Rams end the season with a 10-17 record.
Merchant Marine will move on to face top-seeded Mount St. Mary College in the Skyline Finals on Saturday, Feb. 23, after the Knights defeated #5-seed Purchase College, 76-44, at home in Thursday night's other semifinal matchup.
Three players scored in double figures for the Mariners, with freshman Lauren Hunter (Tinley Park, Ill.) leading all players with 19 points, while also compiling her 18th double-double of the season with 11 rebounds. Junior Kaleigh D'Arcy (White Plains, N.Y.) added 14 points and eight boards, while freshman Julia Dahlke (San Diego, Calif.) drained 11 points with four assists.
Junior Taylor Hightower (White Plains, Md.) had another great all-around game, scoring eight points, bringing down 14 rebounds and dishing out a game-high six assists. Classmate Shelby Peters (El Dorado Hills, Calif.) posted a game-best 15 rebounds to go along with five points and five assists. Sophomore Kiana Vega (El Paso, Texas) contributed five points off the bench.
Neither team had a particularly great night shooting, as the Mariners hit at a 32.5-percent clip (25-for-77), but they held the Rams to just 23.2-percent from the field over the 40 minutes (13-of-56). The 35 points were the third-lowest that USMMA has allowed this season. Merchant Marine also dominated the battle of the boards, out-rebounding Farmingdale, 61-38.
The Mariners built up an 11-4 advantage halfway through opening quarter, and after giving up a three-pointer at 4:12, they closed the frame with four unanswered points to go out in front, 15-7.
Leading 17-9 with 9:05 left in the second, USMMA used three straight layups by Hunter to extend its advantage to 23-9. Following a Rams' layup their next trip down the floor, Merchant Marine responded with a 9-0 run, including five points by Vega, to go ahead, 32-11. Farmingdale scored the final six points of the quarter and the Mariners went into the break leading, 32-17.
After trading baskets to open the third quarter, USMMA used back-to-back scores by D'Arcy and Peters to take a 38-19 lead with 7:44 on the clock. FSC answered with a three-pointer and then 1-of-2 at the free-throw line before an 11-0 run gave the Mariners a healthy 49-23 advantage late in the third.
In the fourth, Farmingdale State scored its final basket of the game with 3:51 remaining and Merchant Marine tallied the last six points en route to the 29-point victory.
Junior Nia Miller led the way for FSC with 15 points, while sophomore Destiny Hurt added 10 points and classmate Alexis Hunter secured a team-high 13 boards in the loss.
Saturday's Skyline Championship Game will begin at 1 p.m. at Mount St. Mary's Kaplan Center Gymnasium. The Skyline Champion will earn a berth in the 2019 NCAA Division III Women's Basketball National Championship tournament, beginning next week. A full preview with live links for the Skyline Championship Game will be available on Friday on www.USMMASports.com.
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