Women’s Basketball Survives OT Thriller

Senior Danielle Gravel scored 23 points and made 6 of 12 three-pointers to spark women's basketball into the NEAC semifinals with a thrilling, 80-77 overtime win over Cazenovia (photo courtesy of Carly Volante, Keuka College Sports Information Department).
Senior Danielle Gravel scored 23 points and made 6 of 12 three-pointers to spark women's basketball into the NEAC semifinals with a thrilling, 80-77 overtime win over Cazenovia (photo courtesy of Carly Volante, Keuka College Sports Information Department).

By John Boccacino/Sports Information Director
Senior Taylor Szwec (Candor, NY/Candor) recorded her third straight double-double, classmate Danielle Gravel (Sidney, NY/Sidney) added 23 points and senior Jessica Bandrowski (Center Moriches, NY/Center Moriches) scored 18 points as the Keuka College women's basketball team outlasted Cazenovia College 80-77 in overtime Tuesday night.

Szwec grabbed a career-high 22 rebounds (17 defensive rebounds) and added 10 points while Bandrowski had six steals and five assists and Gravel shot 53.3 percent from the floor (8 of 15), including connecting on 50 percent of her '3s' (6 of 12) to shoot the Storm into the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) semifinals.

With the win, the Storm (12-10) will face defending champion Lancaster Bible College in the NEAC semifinals at 6 p.m. Saturday night in Lancaster, Pa.

The NEAC championship is at 3 p.m. Sunday, with the winner earning the conference's automatic qualifier into the NCAA Division III tournament.

"I was just trying to do whatever I could to help this team win," said Szwec, who earlier in the day was named third-team All-NEAC, her first all-conference selection of her career.

"That was a crazy atmosphere for a game, the students were cheering us on and it felt great to have that kind of support. But it felt even better to get this win. Thankfully, we made more plays down the stretch and were able to get the win.

Keuka has now won the last 14 meetings with Cazenovia, and 19 of the last 20 matchups.

The Storm, who have won six of the nine NEAC postseason championships, improved to 19-3 all-time in the NEAC tournament, by far the most wins of any school in the conference.

Keuka jumped out to a 77-68 lead early in overtime, but had to sweat out the ending against a resilient Cazenovia (7-19) squad.

Gravel knocked down a '3' for a 70-67 lead, and following a free throw from Megan Plahanski (13 points), freshman Chinyere Ukwu (Roosevelt, NY/St. Dominic) hit a free throw to spark the Storm on a 7-0 run.

Szwec hit a layup, was fouled and converted the three-point play for a 74-68 edge with 3:02 remaining in overtime.

After Szwec snared a pair of offensive rebounds, Ukwu hit a layup for a 76-68 lead, and Bandrowski pushed the margin to nine with a free throw with 1:47 remaining.

But as they did in overcoming a 13-point, second-half deficit, the Wildcats roared back. Rachael McDonough scored eight straight points as Cazenovia pulled within 78-76 on a layup with 16 seconds remaining.

Bandrowski and Gravel each hit a free throw sandwiched around a made free throw from Erin O'Malley (19 points, 15 rebounds), as the Storm held an 80-77 lead with eight seconds left in the extra stanza.

The Wildcats had an open look at a '3' with two seconds remaining, but the shot missed the mark, senior Brittany Sinnott (Mount Kisco, NY/Fox Lane) squeezed the rebound and the Storm advanced in a wild NEAC quarterfinal contest.

"The biggest positive out of all of this is we didn't give up, which is something we've been battling with the whole year," said Katie Marcella, in her second season leading the Storm.

"It was a reality check for the seniors that they didn't want to be done, they didn't want to go out this way. Dani shot a lot better than she's been shooting the last couple of games, and I think this was good for her and her confidence going forward. … I also want to thank our student body for their tremendous support tonight. They came to cheer us on and the support was amazing."

Bandrowski scored 11 points with two steals while Szwec snared 10 first-half rebounds as Keuka took a 30-27 lead into halftime.

When Bandrowski came up with a steal and drove coast-to-coast for the layup, it gave Keuka a 24-16 lead and put her into first place on the school's career steals list, surpassing Melissa Thurston (2006-10) with 266 career thefts.

The Storm's lead grew to 58-45 on a three-point play from junior Brittany Hadley (Jasper, NY/Jasper-Troupsburg) with 7:22 remaining in regulation.

Gravel knocked down another '3' for a 63-51 lead with 5:14 to play before the Wildcats answered with a 14-2 run, capped by a steal and fastbreak layup from O'Malley that knotted the score at 65 with 2:26 remaining.

Plahanski's layup gave Cazenovia a 67-65 lead, but Szwec countered with a 10-foot jumper that evened the score with 1:37 remaining, and neither team scored again in regulation, setting up the dramatic overtime.

"For the seniors on this team, we didn't want this to be the last game that we played," said Szwec, a four-year member of the varsity. "We have all grown so close and now that we're all healthy, we're starting to play well as a team again. I'm very proud of how hard we fought tonight to get this win."

Sinnott, senior Casey Chamberlain (Perry, NY/Perry) and freshman Katie Stuart (Tupper Lake, NY/Tupper Lake) each snared seven rebounds for Keuka, which grabbed 25 offensive rebonds and held a 59-49 edge on the glass against the Wildcats.