On Wednesday, Feb. 11, the Elizabethtown College women’s basketball team took to the court against a non-conference opponent for the final time in the 2014-2015 season. The Blue Jays carried a 15-game non-conference winning streak into their game at Muhlenberg College, which dated back to the 2012-2013 season. Etown finished a perfect 6-0 during their non-conference schedule last year and opened this season with seven wins in seven games against non-conference opponents.
Coming off two-straight Landmark Conference victories, the Blue Jays came into the game with a 15-5 overall record, with eight of those wins coming against conference foes. Muhlenberg entered the game at 14-6 and sat in second place in the Centennial Conference standings.
The Mules and Blue Jays traded baskets early, with junior guard Rachel Forjan scoring all eight of the Blue Jays’ points in the opening minutes to give Etown the 8-7 lead. Muhlenberg made two separate big runs in the first half to take control in the first 20 minutes of action. After junior guard Alyssa Aichele gave Etown the lead at the 12 minute mark of the first half, the Mules went on an 11-0 run, holding the Blue Jays scoreless for over eight minutes of play.
Etown made a small run of its own behind sophomore forward Emily Martin, who scored a team-high 16 points, cutting the lead to 27-22 with two minutes left in the first half. However, the Mules went on another 11-0 run to close the half and take a 38-22 lead into halftime.
The Blue Jays shot just 30 percent in the first half and carried over their shooting woes into the second half as well. Etown hit only one of their 14 three-point attempts and shot eight of 32 from the field overall in the second half. Muhlenberg continued to knock down shots in the second half, shooting 49 percent for the game en route to a 72-48 victory over the visiting Blue Jays.
Martin grabbed seven rebounds to go along with her 16 points. Aichele also grabbed seven rebounds and scored seven points, while Forjan finished the game with eight points.
The Blue Jays looked to bounce back against Landmark Conference opponent, Moravian College, on Saturday, Feb. 14. The game matched two teams fighting for the fourth, and final, playoff spot in the conference. The two teams came in tied for fourth place with an 8-5 conference record; however, Moravian defeated Etown back on Jan. 10, 75-69, at Thompson Gymnasium.
“We knew if we were going to win against them this time, we were going to have to out-hustle them and play a solid forty minutes of basketball,” Martin said.
Etown jumped out in front of Moravian early, taking a 17-12 lead about halfway through the first half. The Blue Jays held the Greyhounds to just 22.6 percent shooting from the field in the first half, helping them get out to an eight-point lead at halftime on the road.
Early in the second half, Etown continued to score and get stops on defense, widening their lead to double-digits. The Greyhounds were able to fight back behind their stars, Samantha Caligiuri, Alexis Wright and Alesha Marcks, who all finished in double-figuring scoring. The Blue Jays saw a 14-point lead, their largest of the game at the 14:17 mark of the second half, dwindle down to two with just over two minutes left in the game.
Out of a timeout and with a 59-57 lead, the Blue Jays found Aichele on the wing for a long jump shot that extended their lead back up to four. Aichele’s basket gave her the only two points she scored on the afternoon. However, the basket could not have come at a better time for the Blue Jays. Moravian’s Caligiuri was fouled shooting a three-pointer with 10 seconds left and the Blue Jays up 61-58, but failed to convert on any of the free throws. Sophomore point guard Krissy Pennell was fouled with two seconds left and hit one of two free throws to secure the victory for Etown.
“It was a huge win. Before the game we were tied with Moravian for fourth, and this win puts us in a tie for third with Susquehanna,” Martin said. “It was essential for helping us secure our spot for playoffs.”
The 62-58 win for the Blue Jays meant they would own, at worst, sole possession of the fourth and final playoff spot with two games remaining in the regular season. However, after Susquehanna University lost to Drew University on Saturday, Etown jumped into a third place tie with the Crusaders. Etown holds the tiebreaker by virtue of a 54-45 victory over Susquehanna back on Jan. 24.
Forjan led the Blue Jays with 15 points on the afternoon on six of nine shooting. Pennell chipped in with 14 points, four assists and four steals, while senior forward Taylor Alwine recorded her first double-double of the season, finishing with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Martin also had a big day for Etown, scoring eight points and grabbing a team-high 12 rebounds.
Last night, the Blue Jays faced Drew University in their final regular-season home game of the season. Drew was coming off a big victory over Susquehanna on Saturday, and even though they were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention coming into last night’s game, the Rangers were looking to spoil the playoff party by pulling off the upset.
“We cannot underestimate [Drew], which I think we did the first time we played them. We know that they are capable of beating us, so we have to go into this game ready to compete,” Martin said.
Martin played the game of her life last night in the Blue Jays 65-51 victory over the Rangers. She finished with a career-high 23 points and a career-high 25 rebounds. Martin also recorded six steals and six blocks to fill out the stat sheet.
Forjan scored 19 points for the Blue Jays on 50 percent shooting from the field and Alwine scored 11 points.
Courtney Stephens scored a game-high 27 points for the Drew Rangers in the loss. It was Drew’s final game of the season.
The Blue Jays will play their final regular game of the season on Saturday at Susquehanna. The two teams are tied for the third seed in the playoffs. The game will help determine the seeding for the Landmark Playoffs. Tipoff is scheduled for 2p.m.