The Spartans saw their dreams of a second straight NAC Championship dissolve as Colby-Sawyer went on a 16-1 run midway through the second half and then withstood a last-minute rally to earn a 65-59 victory over Castleton to clinch the program's first NAC Championship.
It was a hard-fought contest with the Spartans holding just a slim 37-36 lead at the break, however, they shot just 23 percent from the field in the second half in falling to 26-2 on the year. The Chargers improved to 23-5 overall and earned the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Three players reached double figures for the Spartans, led by Stephanie Linder with 11 points, six rebounds and four steals. Alyssa Leonard and Meghan O'Sullivan each scored ten, with Leonard added 11 rebounds, four assists and two steals. Leonard and Liz Douglass were named to the all-tournament team for their play over the past three tournament contests.
Taylor DeSanty was honored as NAC Tournament MVP after scoring a game-high 27 points on 9-for-16 shooting from the floor, including five triples. She also added seven rebounds and three steals. Cailin Bullet finished with six points, five rebounds and five assists and earned all-tournament honors.
Castleton struggled shooting in the opening minutes and the Chargers took advantage, opening with a 5-2 lead and then taking a 14-10 advantage with 12:43 left in the half. The lead got as high as five before a 9-2 gave the Spartans their first lead, 21-19, with 9:20 remaining. Castleton wouldn't relinquish the lead in the half, pushing it as high as eight, 33-25, before a mini run by Colby-Sawyer closed the gap to 37-36 at the break.
The Spartans established an advantage early in the second half, going up 47-41 on three free throws by Tarryn Bolognani. Castleton maintained the two possession lead until a jumper by O'Sullivan made it 52-45 with 11:53 left.
DeSanty drew a foul and hit a pair of free throws on the next possession. That jumpstarted a 17-1 run over the next six minutes by the Chargers, with two free throws by Kelsey Cahill giving Colby-Sawyer a 62-53 lead with 4:56 remaining.
Jade Desroches came off the bench to hit a pair of threes for a personal 6-0 run that cut the lead to 62-59 with 1:26 left. However Bullet made a free throw on the ensuing possession and Castleton missed a trio of shots to trim the lead further. The Spartans were finally forced to foul and the Chargers held on for the victory.
Castleton now waits to see whether the team earns an NCAA or ECAC bid to postseason play.
Courtesy: Castleton Athletics
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