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Women’s basketball wins first playoff game

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Women’s basketball wins first playoff game

The women's basketball team celebrated a 58-50 win in the first playoff game against Oberlin College with fans on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016.

The women's basketball team celebrated a 58-50 win in the first playoff game against Oberlin College with fans on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016.

Brittany Adams

The women's basketball team celebrated a 58-50 win in the first playoff game against Oberlin College with fans on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016.

Brittany Adams

Brittany Adams

The women's basketball team celebrated a 58-50 win in the first playoff game against Oberlin College with fans on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016.

Shea Beaumont, Staff Writer

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The Allegheny women’s basketball team began its quest for a NCAC championship on Tuesday night with a first-round home matchup against Oberlin College.

Before the game, Head Coach Kate Costanzo mentioned how exciting it is to host a playoff game on their home court.

“Our goal at the start of the season was to finish in the top-four of the conference so we could host a playoff game at Allegheny in front of our home crowd. We are excited that we are able to do that tonight,” Costanzo said. “It’s great to have a home playoff game because it gives the seniors one more game on their home court and we also love playing in front of our home crowd.”

Even with this playoff win, Costanzo still focuses on improving team efforts.

“In order to move on, we need to rebound well, force turnovers, and value each possession. If we play with the same energy and intensity that we’ve played with all season, we will be in good shape,” Costanzo said.

Madison Caufield, ’18, guard, said the team needed to focus on what they did the previous two times to overcome Oberlin during the regular season.

“We are facing Oberlin, whom we swept during season, so the most important thing to focus on is what we did both of the times we played them.  Just as important is to not go into the game thinking it is going to be easy just because we beat them twice already,” Caufield said. “We must look at them as the best competition we are going to face and step up to the plate.  With that mentality and the execution of our game plan we should move on to the semi-finals.”

Fourth-seeded Allegheny (14-12, 8-8) used its pressuring defense to force 22 turnovers as the Gators advanced to the NCAC Tournament semi-finals with a 58-50 victory over fifth-seeded Oberlin College (12-14, 6-10). Allegheny was also led by senior guard Jessica Mrdjenovich who scored 12 of her game-high 18 points in the second half to close out the game.

After being swept by Oberlin just a season ago, the Gators gave them a sweep of their own on Tuesday night by winning their third straight game this season against the Yeowomen.

Mrdjenovich’s 18-point effort tied a season-high while also giving her three consecutive double-digit scoring performances to continue her hot streak. Senior Emma Pellicano nearly had a double-double, as she scored eight points and pulled down nine rebounds, while fellow senior Rachel Vigliotti led the Allegheny offense with six assists.

Mrdjenovich had a unique mentality that she attributed to her successes in the first round playoff game.

“I think that my whole mentality approaching the game shifted into playoff mode, as it hit me that this game could be my last that I ever played,” Mrdjenovich said. “All of the seniors felt that way so we really devoted ourselves to our defense and playing for each other and I think that is ultimately what led me to have a good offensive game.”

Allegheny’s defense ran a successful full-court press throughout the whole game which led to many of Oberlin’s mistakes.

Costanzo said that her team works hard on defense which leads to the turnovers they force during the games.

“Our defense is one of our strengths. The players have bought into our full-court pressing and it shows,” Costanzo said. “They work so hard defensively and always give all out effort and if we can have our defense turn into easy offense, we will be in good shape.”

Ifeyinwa Uwazie, ’16, said the team focuses a lot on their defensive work and that’s why they show so much success against their opponents.

“We take great pride in our defensive intensity and use a lot of communication, hustle, and teamwork to make it so successful in stopping our opponents,” Uwazie said.

The fan base provided a supportive and exciting atmosphere for the Gators in the David V. Wise center.

Jessica Mrdjenovich said that playing in front of such a supportive crowd helped with their win against Oberlin.

“The atmosphere was absolutely electric. The crowd was amazing and it honestly made playing even more fun than usual,” Mrdjenovich said. “The whole team definitely fed off the energy and it showed in our defensive intensity, so a big thanks to everyone that came to support us and helping us to push past the first round.”

Costanzo cannot thank the fans that came to cheer on the team enough for their support.

“That was the best crowd that I’ve seen since I’ve been at Allegheny so we really appreciate all of the support,” Costanzo said.

The Gators will now face the top seed in the conference and the 23rd ranked team in the country when they travel to Granville, Ohio to face Denison University.

The team has already lost two tough matchups against Denison earlier in the regular season but look forward at another shot at the Big Red.

“We are excited for our semi-final matchup with Denison,” Costanzo said. “We have five seniors leading the way, and we will stick to our game plan of playing fast and valuing each possession. The team is really looking forward to another shot at a very strong Denison team.”

Uwazie said that it will be hard to beat the Gators three times in the same season especially after two close games with Denison earlier in the season.

“Those two losses were very close games throughout. We do keep up with Denison, and I feel like we even run them off the court a lot when we play them,” Uwazie said. “It’s very hard to beat a team like us three times and I think that we all feel prepared and confident enough in our abilities which could lead to this matchup ending in our favor.”

Uwazie said that keeping a playoff mindset will set the Gators up for a successful run at the NCAC championship.

“I think we need to continue to work with the mindset that the playoffs are kind of a do or die and a now or never situation,” Uwazie said. “One important part of that is having a good offensive game.

“We already know that our defense leads to more offensive possessions for us so now we need to focus on putting the ball in the hoop and I think keeping that playoff mindset in mind will help us to do that more effectively.”

Allegheny will continue its pursuit of the program’s first NCAC title in 27 years on Friday, Feb. 26 at 8 p.m. against Denison University.

 

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Women’s basketball wins first playoff game