Playing for a conference championship for the first time in five seasons, the Urbana University women's basketball team entered this weekend's inaugural G-MAC Tournament with championship intentions. As an added incentive, Urbana hoped to avenge a three-point loss to their opponent in the championship game, Trevecca Nazarene University.
Two weeks ago in Nashville, the TNU Trojans held off a late charge from the Blue Knights to capture the first regular season G-MAC title. With that win, TNU also earned the right to host this weekend's conference tournament as the top seed. Unfortunately for the Trojans, the home court advantage didn't help on Saturday afternoon as the second-seeded Blue Knights traveled to Nashville and brought home the hardware after a 70-63 victory in the G-MAC Championship.
Urbana raced out 10-0 lead as Trevecca missed their first nine shots from the field. Conference Player of the Year Ciara Geiger scored 16 first half points on 6 of 7 shooting from the field, including 3 of 4 from downtown, to lead her squad to a 45-33 advantage at the break.
The Trojans briefly trimmed their deficit to 53-50 early in the second half, but a quick 8-0 spurt by the Blue Knights pushed the lead back to double digits. Kate Francisco and Jackie Cousineau each knocked down big shots from downtown during the run.
The Trojans made one more attempt to steal the championship away from the Blue Knights. Urbana starting point guard DeVonyea Johnson fouled out and the Trojans' press caused some late Urbana miscues. Britt Bell's three-pointer from the wing made it a three-point game with a little over two minutes remaining. The Trojans had three possessions with a chance to tie the game, but they couldn't find a way to score on an Urbana front line that totaled ten blocks in the game.
With 44 seconds to play, sophomore Katy Barkley knocked down a jumper at the top of the key, padding Urbana's lead to five points. Bell missed a three on TNU's ensuing possession. Urbana senior Jess Saffold pulled down her 14th rebound of the afternoon and sank a pair of foul shots to arrive at the final 7-point margin of victory.
Geiger led all scorers with 20 points in the win. The sophomore guard fell just 30 points shy of Urbana's all-time single season scoring mark. Geiger was 7 of 10 from the field with 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Fellow sophomore Kate Francisco tallied 15 points, 7 rebounds, 5 blocks and 2 steals. Saffold and Cousineau each added 11 points in the victory. Saffold recorded her second straight double-double and fourth of the season. Senior center Andrea Vogel added 4 more blocks to her career record. She also had 4 points and 7 boards.
The Blue Knights became the first team to cut down the nets in a post-season conference tournament in 15 years. Trevecca Nazarene fell to 20-8 overall with the loss. Urbana ends its season with an even 15-15 record. The Blue Knights have reached 14 or more wins in 14 of the last 18 seasons, including each of the last two under Head Coach Maria Marchesano. Next season, Urbana will leave the G-MAC for the 12-team Mountain East Conference.