Women's Basketball - Sat, Mar. 3, 2007
CHICAGO - It was everything a conference tournament championship should be. Down by as many as 18 points in the game, No. 3 ranked and No. 1 seeded Saint Xavier University would not be denied rallying to defeat No. 2 seed Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.), 94-88, in a thrilling 2007 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) Women's Basketball Tournament championship game Saturday at the Shannon Center in Chicago. With the victory, the Cougars improve to 28-2 overall and receive an automatic bid to participate in the 2007 NAIA National Championships, which begin on March 14 in Jackson, Tenn. ONU falls to 20-13 overall with the loss, but has an outside chance of earning an at-large bid for the national tournament.
Senior guards Angie Brown (Sycamore, Ill./Sycamore) and Candis Jackson (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young) carried the load for SXU, especially down the stretch. Brown finished with game-highs of 32 points and 10 steals. She also hit eight of her 19 three-point attempts in the game. Jackson had a huge game for the Cougars as well finishing with 25 points, six rebounds, and five assists. She shot an impressive 11-for-18 from the field in Saturday's win. Senior guard Dani Engleman (Oak Park, Ill./Oak Park-River Forest) also scored in double figures with 10 points, while freshman forward Erin Hannemann (Homer Glen, Ill./Providence Catholic) came off the bench for eight points and nine rebounds. Junior forward Jackie Heine (Hampshire, Ill./Hannibal-LaGrange) led SXU on the boards with a game-high 11 rebounds.
SXU struggled to get into a rhythm offensively in the first half and ONU capitalized jumping out to a 10-point lead, 25-15, at the 10-minute mark of the first half. The Tigers continued to apply pressure defensively and were able to build the lead up to 18 points, 42-24, on a three-pointer by sophomore guard Courtney Hehn with five minutes to play before halftime. Shooting just 32 percent (12-for-37) from the field in the first half, the Cougars trailed by 13 points, 50-37, at the break.
A slow start by Saint Xavier in the second half allowed ONU to build a 16-point advantage, 66-50, with 14 minutes to play in regulation. However, a lay-up by Jackson sparked an 18-1 scoring surge for the Cougars over the next four minutes, which gave them their first lead, 68-67, since the 15-minute mark of the first half. A free throw by Brown with nine minutes to play gave SXU a 72-71 advantage, a lead that the Cougars would hold the rest of the contest. Despite pulling to within a basket in the closing minutes, SXU was able to stave off any late rally attempts by the Tigers. Junior guard Hilary Disch, who finished with 18 points, led Olivet in scoring in Saturday's championship.
Saint Xavier (28-2 overall/11-1 CCAC) has next week off to prepare for the NAIA National Championships, which begin on March 14. The Cougars will receive its seed for the tourney on Tuesday, March 6, when the NAIA national office releases the seeds following the completion of all conference tournaments. Pairings for the tournament will be released at a later date.