Saturday, March 1st
CASTLETON, Vt. – Leading by just 11 with eight minutes left in regulation, Castleton went on an 9-2 run over a three-minute stretch to put the game away and earn the program's fourth North Atlantic Conference Championship with a 73-49 victory over Colby-Sawyer on Saturday afternoon in Glenbrook Gym.
The Spartans looked poised to run away with the game midway through the second half, but an 8-0 Colby-Sawyer run closed the gap to 55-44 with 8:26 left in regulation, prompting a Castleton timeout. Out of the break, it was senior Alyssa Leonard who came through with a jump shot from the wing and junior Meghan O'Sullivan followed with a jump shot off a freed from Liz Douglass to make it 59-44 at 6:40. The lead didn't drop below 13 the rest of the game as Castleton clinched its second NAC Title in three years.
Junior Jade Desroches earned NAC Tournament MVP honors after spearheading the Spartan attack while playing all 40 minutes. The guard scored 16 points while pulling down nine rebounds, dishing off six assists and swiping three steals. O'Sullivan was the recipient of a few of those passes as she finished with a game-high 22 points, including 15 in the first half. Leonard also came through with 18 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals.
The Castleton defense held the Chargers to just 25.0 percent shooting in the contest and 6-for-27 from beyond the arc while making 48.2 percent of its shots from the field. The Spartans also forced 15 turnovers and outrebounded the Chargers 40-33.
Kelsey Cahill put forth a strong effort, scoring a team-high 14 points while grabbing 11 rebounds. The junior added three assists and two blocks. Kelsey Bragdon was the only other Charger in double figures as she scored ten points and pulled down two offensive boards.
Castleton opened the game on an 8-2 run over the first four minutes and extended its lead to 12-5 on a layup by O'Sullivan with 12:01 left in the half. The Spartans pushed their advantage to 10 following an 8-3 spurt at 8:15, but the Chargers came back with a 11-4 run to close the score to 24-21 with 4:28 left on a pair of Jessica Shenkel free throws.
Leonard and Desroches combined to go on a 9-2 run and put Castleton in front 35-23 at 2:41. A 5-0 run by Bragdon cut the lead to seven, but the Spartans scored the final five points of the half for a 40-28 lead at the break.
Back-to-back layups from Heather Murdough and Leonard made it a 16-point game just 53 seconds in the second and Castleton's lead stretched to 20 on a three-point play by Desroches with 17:04 left. The Spartans lead didn't dip below 11 until the 8-0 run by the Chargers. However, Castleton response was emphatic and the team pushed its lead back to 20 before finishing with the 24-point victory.
Murdough was solid inside for the Spartans with nine points, seven rebounds and two assists. Douglass did a bit of everything with six points, eight rebounds and five assists while harassing senior guard Ashley Fruzzetti into five turnovers and 2-for-10 shooting from the field. In all, Castleton starters combined for 71 of the team's 73 points.
The Spartans improve to 25-3 with the victory, the second-highest win total in program history, while Colby-Sawyer drops to 18-10 overall. Castleton now advances to the NCAA Division III Tournament and the Spartans will find out their opponent on Monday afternoon.
--- Castleton Sports Information
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