Jackson, Tenn. - Senior forward Erin Hannemann (Homer Glen, Ill./Providence Catholic) recorded 20 points and 10 rebounds to lift No. 2 ranked and No. 1 seeded Saint Xavier University to a thrilling 71-67 victory in the second round of the NAIA Division I Women's Basketball Championships Friday night at Oman Arena in Jackson, Tenn. It is the first "Elite Eight" appearance for the Cougars in the 10-year history of the program. Senior center Marquita Smith (Chicago, Ill./Central Methodist/Crane Tech) also had a huge game for SXU posting 10 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks. In addition, Hannemann became Saint Xavier's all-time leading rebounder with her second rebound of the night and finished with 918 career boards surpassing former Cougar standout Rachel Merkell (909).
Both teams battled in the early goings before a jumper by McClain with 11:15 remaining in the first half sparked a 7-0 run that put the Cougars ahead, 18-12, and forced the Patriots to call a timeout following a big three-pointer by sophomore guard Marissa Young (Monroe, Wis./St. Joseph's College/Monroe). The timeout did nothing to stall SXU's momentum as the Cougars continued to build on their lead going ahead by nine, 24-15, on a lay-up by Hannemann with 6:35 left to play in the half. Saint Xavier would extend its lead to double figures on a three-pointer by Barone with just under five minutes remaining and would close out the first half on a 7-0 run to take a 36-22 lead into the locker room at halftime. Things started off sloppy in the second half and the Cumberlands opened the frame on an 8-0 run before the Cougars finally scored on a fast-break lay-up by Hannemann at the 15:37 mark. Smith would score on a lay-up shortly after to put SXU back up by double figures, 40-30. However, back-to-back three pointers by CU junior guard Stephanie Quattrociocchi cut the Saint Xavier lead to four points, 42-38, with just over 12 minutes to play. A 7-0 run by the Cougars, including a three-point play by Hannemann, made the score, 53-42, at the 9:27 mark. The Patriots would take another shot at a rally closing to within five, 56-51, just two minutes later, but a 10-3 run over the game's next five minutes would help propel the Cougars to their first "Elite Eight" appearance. It would not come easy though as Cumberlands scored 11 points in the final 1:46 of play to pull within four points. Barone would snag a huge steal in the final 10 seconds of regulation to seal the victory. Saint Xavier (31-1 overall/9-1 CCAC) advances to take on the winner of tonight's late game between No. 2 seed Azusa Pacific University (Calif.) and No. 3 seed Freed-Hardeman University (Tenn.) on Saturday, March 20. The quarterfinals game will tip off at 8 p.m. at Oman Arena in Jackson, Tenn.Click here for game stats