By Chris McManes
The Catholic University women's basketball team entered Saturday's game at the John Long Center in Scranton, Pa., hoping to do what it did in 2015: Win the Landmark Conference championship on the Royals' homecourt.
It didn't happen.
No. 14 Scranton (24-3) won its fifth-straight league title, 63-42. Makenzie Mason led the way for the top-seeded Royals with 21 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks.
Senior Sydney Poindexter, likely playing her final collegiate game, paced the Cardinals (21-6) with 18 points. Amelia Baldo scored six points, and Amanda Johnson had four points and a team-high nine rebounds.
Catholic, which entered the contest scoring 70.9 points per game, was held to its lowest point total and shooting percentage (32.7) of the season by a conference opponent. The Cardinals hadn't shot this poorly (16 of 49) since making 31.6 percent in a 61-52 victory at Muhlenberg on Nov. 23.
"When we went into halftime down by five points, we felt pretty confident that with a few adjustments we could get things going in the second half," Catholic Coach Matt Donohue said. "Unfortunately, we weren't able to get on track offensively.
"We have to give Scranton a lot of credit for that. They defended and rebounded extremely well throughout the game."
While the Royals are guaranteed a spot in the NCAA Division III Tournament, the Cards, ranked eighth in the Mid-Atlantic region, are not likely to hear their name called. The NCAA selection show is Monday.
Despite the setback, Catholic enjoyed another outstanding season. The team recorded its fifth campaign of 21 or more victories in the past nine years, all under Donohue. The Cardinals were the last team to beat Scranton, 65-62, on Jan. 18.
"I'm proud of what we accomplished this year," said Donohue, the program's all-time winningest coach. "We fought through a lot of adversity and overcame a number of challenging obstacles."
The Cards took their last lead of the game, 4-2, with 7:42 left in the first quarter. The Royals closed the period on an 11-3 run to go in front, 13-7. Poindexter kept Catholic close by scoring 12 of her team's first 16 points.
The Cardinals went into halftime down 28-23. They would not draw closer. A 3-pointer by Emily Sheehan gave Scranton its first double-digit lead, 36-26. An Emily Shurina trey boosted the Royal advantage to 11, 39-28, with just under two minutes to play in the third.
Shurina finished with 12 points, all on 3-pointers. She had half of Scranton's eight triples. Catholic, meanwhile, was just 1 of 10 from long distance.
The Royals, who have won 12 in a row, got 11 points from Bridget Monahan and nine from Sheehan.
"Accomplishing what we did with such a young team speaks volumes for the character and work ethic of the young women in this program," Donohue said. "I'm very proud of them."