Ithaca Advances in E8 Tournament with 63-55 Win over Hartwick

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HOBOKEN, N.J. – The Ithaca College women's basketball team will play for an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championships tomorrow afternoon after a 63-55 victory over Hartwick College in the Empire 8 Conference semifinals on Friday evening  inside Canavan Arena in Hoboken, N.J. Ithaca, now 23-3 on the season and making its 10th straight trip to the Empire 8 final, will take on host and top-seeded Stevens Institute of Technology (16-9) at 4 p.m. The Bombers have now won 12 consecutive games.

It took the Bombers nearly 3:30 to score, but the defense was able to hold Hartwick to just three points during the drought. Ithaca got on the board off a transition layup by senior Erin Ferguson, off a feed from classmate Ali Ricchiuti. Another easy basket for Ferguson a minute later put Ithaca in front, 4-3, and then senior Shayna Gaskins extended the lead to 6-3 with 4:02 remaining. Hartwick answered with a 13-0 run over the next 3:07 to take a 16-6 advantage, but sophomore Meghan Pickell ended Ithaca's scoreless streak with a 3-pointer to account of the final basket of the quarter.

Within the opening minute of the second quarter, Ricchiuti converted back-to-back layups to pull Ithaca to within three points at 16-13. By the 7:27 mark, Ithaca went back in front on a jumper from junior Julie Yacovoni and another transition bucket by Ferguson to extend the Bombers' run to 14-0. A three by the Hawks put them back in front, 19-17, with 7:07 remaining, but the conference foes would trade baskets over the next four-plus minutes. During the back-and-forth affair, there were three ties and five lead changes. Hartwick managed to record consecutive makes to establish a 29-26 lead with 2:49 to play and went to the break with a 31-28 lead over the Bombers.

Hartwick held its lead early on in the third quarter, but Ricchiuti hit a mid-range jumper and then cashed in on a transition layup to give Ithaca the lead at 34-33. After a 38-38 deadlock with 5:08 remaining in the period, Ithaca struggled to find the bottom of the net for nearly four minutes until sophomore Sara Jackson made both free throw attempts with 1:41 to play to make the score, 41-40, in favor of Hartwick. The third stanza ended on a layup from sophomore Annie Giannone to keep the Bombers to within a point heading to the final 10 minutes of action.

The Hawks registered the first basket of the fourth quarter to regain a three-point lead, 46-43, just 11 seconds in, but it was all Bombers from there, as they outscored Hartwick, 20-9, the rest of the way. Fourteen of those points came from Ferguson, who finished with a game-high 21 points on 9-of-17 shooting from the field.

Ferguson also tallied seven rebounds, five assists and two steals.

Ricchiuti and Yacovoni also posted solid outings on Friday, with 15 points and 12 points. Ricchiuti went 7-for-15 overall with five boards and four assists, while Yacovoni was 6-for-10 with three rebounds and two steals.

Pickell added five points, while Giannone notched four rebounds, three points and three assists. Junior Erin Woop snagged four boards, while classmate Jordan Beers score three points with three rebounds and two steals.

Ithaca shot 41.5-percent (27-for-65) in the game and scored 23 points off 25 Hartwick turnovers. The Bombers also assisted on 16 baskets.

Saturday marks the 12th time that Ithaca will play for the conference title and the fifth meeting with Stevens in the championship contest. The Ducks have won three of the previous four matchups.