PHILADELPHIA – The Thomas Jefferson University women's basketball team (20-11) scored seven of the last nine points over the final two minutes to defeat Holy Family (18-11), 63-59, and claim their second straight CACC title on Sunday at USciences.
The Rams, who were the South Division's third seed, will take a 12-game win streak into their third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, their fifth in the last six years, and their 12th overall. The bracket will be announced via a live selection show on NCAA.com on Sunday night at 10 p.m.
Jefferson scored six of the contest's first eight points and led by as many as six (16-10) in the period. The Tigers closed the gap to one (16-15) heading into the second. The Rams started the quarter with six in a row to increase the lead to seven (22-15) with 7:43 on the clock. However, Holy Family followed with a 12-2 rally to take their first lead of the game (27-24) with 28 seconds to go. Senior Alynna Williams made a layup for Jefferson in the final seconds to make the score 27-26 at the intermission.
In the third, freshman Morgan Robinson tied the score at 32 with a pair of free throws. The Tigers responded with four points to regain the advantage with 5:25 left. Williams evened the score again (36-36) with a triple at the 5:02 mark. Holy Family had an answer yet again, tallying eight of the next 10 for a 44-38 cushion. The Rams fought back with an 8-2 run to end the period, sending the title game into the fourth tied at 46. Williams hit two three-pointers in the stretch.
HFU posted the first five points in the final quarter to go ahead 51-46. Williams and freshman Haley Meinel made back-to-back layups to close the gap to one. The Tigers had four of the next six to go back up by three (55-52) with 4:34 remaining. Williams had a layup then Meinel stole the ball and laid it in to give Jefferson a 56-55 advantage (3:02). Holy Family went back in front on free throws before Williams drilled another three to put the Rams up two (59-57) with 1:57 left.
Junior Sabria Lytes came up with a steal and Williams hit a devastating three with 1:00 to play to make it 62-57. The Tigers made a layup then had an opportunity with the ball down by three but turned it over with 13 seconds to go. Sophomore Maddie Haney was fouled and went to the line, making one of two to make it a two-possession game (0:11). Jefferson then forced another turnover and ran out the clock to celebrate its successful title defense.
BY THE NUMBERS
- Williams led all scorers with 23 points. She also had four assists, two steals and two rebounds. The senior shot 5-of-8 from three.
- Meinel finished with 13 points, four assists, three steals, two blocks and two rebounds.
- Lytes totaled 12 points, nine boards and three steals.
- Haney contributed eight points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block.
AS A TEAM
- The Rams shot 43.9% (25-of-57) from the field, 53.8% (7-of-13) from three-point range and 66.7% (6-of-9) at the line.
- Jefferson held Holy Family to just 33.3% shooting in the fourth quarter.
- The Rams forced 20 turnovers and turned them into 18 points.
Williams was chosen the tournament's Most Valuable Player. She was joined on the All-Tournament Team by Lytes and Meinel. Williams previously earned All-Tournament honors in 2018.
- Williams became the Rams' all-time leader in three-pointers. She has 243 for her career and surpassed former teammate Rachel Day (239).
- It is Jefferson's fourth CACC Championship and seventh conference title overall in program history.
- The Rams have won back-to-back conference titles for the first time since 1994.
- It is the first time in program history that Jefferson has three consecutive NCAA Tournament bids.
- It was head coach Tom Shirley's 797th career win (648 at Jefferson).
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
"It's definitely number one. Every year, I think about the team we are going to have. The three previous times we have won this, I felt that we had a championship-caliber team. This year, my goal was to have a winning season and make the playoffs. Then, we started snowballing and I'm wondering how big is this snowball going to get. For it to get to here is incredible."
- Head coach Tom Shirley on where this year's team ranks among his years at the helm in terms of improvement from start to finish
"We have struggled all year with body language and staying positive when something wouldn't go our way. That was something we emphasized throughout the year to get better at. The improvements we have made kept us where we needed to be during this game. It made us fight harder and play ten times better."
- Senior Alynna Williams on trying to come back in the second half