Junior Mary Kusner provided a huge lift off the bench with career-bests of 30 points and 12 rebounds
Junior Mary Kusner provided a huge lift off the bench with career-bests of 30 points and 12 rebounds
(12)Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.)
(16)Saint Xavier
Women's Basketball - Sat, Mar. 5, 2011

CHICAGO - Behind a career performance off the bench by junior forward Mary Kusner (Des Plaines, Ill./Maine West), the No. 16 ranked and No. 1 seeded Saint Xavier University women's basketball team won its third consecutive Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) Tournament title with a 101-91 victory over No. 12 ranked and No. 2 seeded Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.) Saturday afternoon at the Shannon Center in Chicago. Kusner logged career-bests of 30 points and 12 rebounds in Saturday's championship coming into the game as the primary forward after an injury sidelined junior starter Brittany Jones (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) less than five minutes into play. Kusner shot 14-for-21 from the field (67 percent) to lead SXU in the winning effort.

The game was full of noteworthy performers on both sides. Saint Xavier junior guard Marissa Young (Monroe, Wis./St. Joseph's College/Monroe) finished with 24 points, seven rebounds, six assists and four steals. The Tigers were led by sophomore guard Danielle Tolbert with 18 points to go along with six rebounds and five assists. The Cougars also had senior guard Shalonda Young (Chicago, Ill./Crane Tech) record her ninth double-double of the year with 15 points and 12 rebounds, while senior point guard Alex Barone (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Catholic) also scored in double figures with 14 points in addition to her seven rebounds and game-best nine assists. ONU also had senior forward Simone Coburn and freshman forward Malory Adam each contribute 12 points.

The Tigers came out firing the long-range shots hitting four three-pointers in the opening three-and-a-half minutes of play to take a quick 12-0 lead. The Cougars did not hit the panic button and chipped away at the early deficit closing to within a point, 18-17, with 11 minutes remaining in the half. A lay-up by Kusner with 8:38 remaining gave Saint Xavier its first lead of the game at 22-21 and the two teams exchanged multiple ties and lead changes over the game's next four minutes. In the closing four minutes of the opening frame, SXU went ahead by as many as nine points and took a seven-point advantage into the break, 45-38.

Early in the second half, the Cougars extended the lead to 13 points (57-44) following a three-pointer by Barone. However, Olivet Nazarene stormed back and a three-pointer by freshman guard Miranda Geever cut the lead to six, 63-57, with 13 minutes to play. SXU was able to keep ONU at bay over the game's next five minutes, but a jumper by sophomore forward Rachel Kearney made it a three-point game, 73-70, at the 8:27 mark. Another lay-up by Kusner capped a 15-7 run by the Cougars that pushed the lead back up to 11 points at 88-77. A three-pointer by Marissa Young and a lay-up by Shalonda Young extended the advantage to 16 points, 93-77, with three minutes remaining. The Tigers would get as close as eight points the rest of the way.

Saint Xavier (24-6 overall/9-1 CCAC) awaits its seeding and pairing for the 2011 NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship, which begins on Wednesday, March 16, in Jackson, Tenn. The seeding and brackets for the national tournament will be released online by Victory Sports Network in a live web-cast on Wednesday, March 9, starting at 6 p.m. (central).