CAC CHAMPS! CNU Wins First CAC Women's Basketball Title With 74-58 Win Over Mary Washington

More news about: Christopher Newport

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- The top-seeded Christopher Newport women's basketball team secured the program's first ever Capital Athletic Conference Championship on Saturday afternoon, powered by a suffocating defensive attack against #2-seed Mary Washington (23-4), downing the Eagles, 74-58. The Captains improved to 25-2 and earned the league's automatic berth into the 2017 NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Championship. 

Junior Sam Porter finished one steal shy of a triple-double to lead the way, while five different Captains finished in double figures. Porter poured in 13 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and finished with nine steals, while adding two assists for good measure. The other four Captains in double figures were team-leading scorer Jasmine Bonivel (14), Zhara Tannor (13), Devon Byrd (11), and Makenzie Fancher (10). 

The Captains, ranked as high as No. 8 in the nation, used a dominating second-half performance to get by the 19th-ranked Mary Washington Eagles in the program's second league championship appearance. 

The game turned with a pivotal run at the end of the second quarter, when Mary Washington had opened up a six-point lead with 1:30 remaining in the first half. The lead was cut in half on a three-pointer by Zhara Tannor, and then Anitra Thomas picked up a pair of steals and knocked down a pair of free-throw sto cut the lead to one, 33-32. After a third steal in the last 90 seconds of the half, this time by Makeda Wright, the Captains had 14 seconds to try and take the lead into the locker room. After a missed three-pointer, Devon Byrd battled for a huge offensive rebound, and while falling out of bounds, found Tannor for another triple from the wing to beat the buzzer.

The 8-0 burst put CNU in front, 35-33, at halftime, and handed the home team all the momentum they would need to blitz by their conference rivals in the second half. With the first four points in the third quarter, the lead grew to six, after a three-pointer by Byrd made it 39-33. Mary Washington would close to within one twice, but after a jumper by Brianne Comden made it 43-42 with 3:45 in the third quarter, the Captains went on another big run to take control. A 7-0 run to end the quarter was paired with a matching 7-0 spurt to start the fourth, and CNU all of a sudden had a 15-point lead, 57-42. 

Sam Porter led a suffocating defensive effort that was relentless through the fourth quarter, and the lead would never dip below 11 in the game again. The Captains had six steals in the final frame, building a lead to as many as 20 as the close game turned into a runaway victory. Porter led the way with three more in the final frame, running her game total to a career-high nine. Anitra Thomas added her fifth, which was also a career high. 

For Porter, the nine steals gives the CNU junior 102 during the 2016-17 season, marking the most thefts in a single year since the 1998-99 season when Leema Madden also grabbed 102. It is tied for the 7th most in a single year in program history. As a team, CNU finished with 20 steals, led by Porter and Thomas. 

Offensively, it was the three-point shot, particularly from junior Jasmine Bonivel, that keyed the big offensive run. Bonivel was 4-for-4 from long range, including back-to-back triples to push the lead to 19, 68-49, with just over four minutes remaining. As a team, the Captains shot 9-of-21 from beyond the arc, including three from Tannor and one each by Fancher and Byrd. CNU was also terrific sharing the ball, dishing out 16 assists on 22 made baskets, led by four from Tannor and three apiece from Bailey Dufrene and Makeda Wright.

Mary Washington had three players finish in double figures, led by senior Brianne Comden with 12 points. Taylor Barton had a strong performance with 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists, while McKenzie Jenkins, powered by a 3-for-3 effort from deep, finished with 11 points. 

Christopher Newport earned the program's 11th conference championship and will return to the NCAA Tournament for the 18th time in program history. The NCAA Selection Committee will announce the bracket and first-round pairings online during a selection show Monday afternoon at 2:30 pm.