SALEM, VA --- Top-seeded Eastern Mennonite pulled away in the final 10 minutes of their ODAC Tournament win over rival Bridgewater College, winning 77-66. The Royals take an 11-game winning streak into the semifinals where they will play No. 4 Virginia Wesleyan Saturday night at 6:00pm at the Salem Civic Center. VWC beat No. 5 Guilford 78-77 in overtime.
EMU's women improve to 22-3 overall while the Eagles end the year at 13-13.
The early going saw a pair of ties, but EMU never trailed. Marla zumFelde (Goshen, Ind./Bethany Christian) drained a three pointer to give the Royals a 31-19 lead with 5:57 to go in the half. The Eagles held on, but the lead was still at 36-26 with 1:30 to go in the period.
Contrary to Eastern Mennonite's pattern this year, however, they were not the team which finished the half strong. Bridgewater scored the final six of the frame to get within four at the break, 36-32.
BC kept coming in the second and finally earned their first lead of the game when Cassidy Burkholder hit a three to make it 40-38 at the 18:17 mark. For the next nine minutes, the teams essentially traded buckets and leads, with neither getting ahead by more than three points.
After a Burkholder layup with 9:28 to play, EMU was still clinging to a 58-57 edge. That's when the fast tempo of the game finally caught up with BC. Over the next 7:33, the Royals' defense held Bridgewater to a series of missed shots and turnovers, combined with no second-chance looks. Eastern Mennonite, meanwhile, patiently connected on six straight possessions to score an 11-0 run, bumping the lead to 69-57.
The Eagles finally got a bucket with 1:55 to play, but it was too late. Jess Rheinheimer (Manheim, Pa./Lancaster Mennonite) hit six straight free throws down the stretch and zumFelde added two late as the lead never got under 10.
Both teams shot very well from the floor, with the Royals hitting 28-of-52 attempts to tie their second-best effort of the season at 53.8%. BC kept pace by going 28-58 for 48.3%. The women won the game at the free throw line, going 18-24, while the Eagles were just 5-11.
Rheinheimer played like the newly crowned ODAC Player of the Year, leading the way with 29 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. Shakeerah Sykes (Dumfries, Va./Forest Park) added 16 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals. Alisa Brown (Dumfries, Va./Forest Park) added 13 points with five assists.
Heather Cantrell led Bridgewater with 17 points. Burkholder had 14 points and six rebounds, while Oshene Kelly added 12 points and seven boards.