CNU advances to second round after hard-fought win at Gettysburg

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Christopher Newport junior Kiana Kirkland scored a career-high 26 points to lead a group of four double-figure scorers for the Captains as CNU advanced to the second round of the Division III NCAA Tournament after an 82-78 win at Gettysburg (22-6). The Captains trailed by as many as 14 in the first-half before clawing back in front of a raucous home crowd to win the back-and-forth tussle. 

Christopher Newport improved to 24-5 overall with the win in the back-and-forth affair that saw the lead change hands 11 times. The last lead change came in the final minute after Tori Yantsos hit a pair of free throws to tie the game with 54 seconds remaining. On the next possession, senior Jessica Daguilh demanded the ball on the low block, got a clean pass and buried a layup off the glass to put the Captains on top, 80-78. That would prove to be the difference as the CNU defense locked down the Bullets on their final two possessions in an attempt to tie and force overtime. 

Daguilh was one of the four Captains in double figures as the go-ahead bucket gave her 11 points in the game. She joined Kirkland, with 26, Sondra Fan with 15, and Zhara Tannor, who added 13 points and five assists. 

Early in the game, CNU jumped out to an 8-3 lead before Gettysburg responded with a 9-0 run to take the lead by four midway through the opening quarter. After the two teams went teetered for several minutes, Gettysburg closed the first quarter on another spurt, scoring the last seven points of the frame before adding 10 of the first 14 in the second to take a game-high 14-point edge, 33-19. The 17-4 run was triggered by Mackenzie Tinner with four points and an assist to end the first quarter. 

Kirkland and freshman Natalie Terwilliger hit buckets in the first 90 seconds of the second quarter, but a pair of 3-pointers extended the lead to 14 with 6:40 showing on the first-half clock. That's when Kirkland took over for CNU. After a steal by Madison Howdyshell, Kirkland buried back-to-back 3-pointers and then grabbed a steal of her own and was fouled to earn a trip to the free-throw line. She knocked down both attempts and moments later grabbed another steal and buried her third 3-pointer in a two-minute stretch of clock. The third triple cut the lead to two, 36-34, as her personal 11-3 run against the Bullets lasted just 2:03 and ignited the Captains momentum heading into the locker room. 

Kiana Kirkland hit a bunch of clutch shots for Christopher Newport on Friday night in Gettysburg.
Gettysburg athletics photo

Phylicia McInnis added a 3-pointer and Jessica Daguilh hit a stick-back layup as time waned in the first half to pull CNU back within two at the break, 41-39. Kirkland had 20 points, with 13 in the second quarter, and shot 7-of-12 from the field. 

After erasing the big lead by the Bullets, the Captains immediately took the lead to start the second half on a three-pointer from Sondra Fan. The two teams were intertwined for the remainder of the game with neither taking more than a six-point lead the rest of the way. Christopher Newport pulled ahead by five on a couple free-throws by Julia Hobbs and then again on an offensive rebound and layup by Hobbs with three minutes left in the third quarter. Gettysburg responded with solid free-throw shooting and a 3-pointer by Seanna McNamara to retake the lead with just over a minute left. Kirkland then stepped in and delivered another huge clutch 3-pointer to push CNU back in front, 62-60. The third quarter expired with Yantsos hitting a layup to even the score at 62-62 heading into the final quarter. 

The battle waged on into the fourth with Gettysburg taking a quick six-point edge on 3-pointers by leading scorer Emma Dorshimer. Fan then answered with a pair of layups and a 3-pointer surrounding a long-range jumper by Zhara Tannoras CNU regained the lead by four with 4:18 remaining, 76-72. Each team ratched up the defense in the final stages and CNU had their small lead whittled down to nothing on the aforementioned free throws by Yantsos, setting up the game-winning play by Daguilh in the final minute. 

The potent CNU offense scored over 80 points for the fifth time in the last six games and the 14th time this season. Playing in front of a season-high crowd of over 900, CNU shot 44.1% (30-68) and knocked down 10 3-pointers in the win. 

Ashley Gehrin scored 18 points to lead the way for Gettysburg, while Dorshimer added 14 points and Carly Rice had 10. 

The exciting postseason game finished with CNU advancing to the second round for the sixth time in the last seven seasons, all under head coach Bill Broderick. The Captains will face Mount Saint Mary College (23-5) in the NCAA Tournament Second Round on Saturday, March 2 at 6:00 pm.