SALEM, Va. – It was all about stepped up intensity on defense in the second half Saturday for Virginia Wesleyan College's drive to the 2012 Old Dominion Athletic Conference championship game.
With Washington & Lee (14-13) looking like it was in gear to spring the upset of the tournament, leading 39-27, VWC's ODAC Coach of the Year Stephany Dunmyer called a time out to pull the Marlins (22-5) together.
When the Marlins returned to the court they brought a pressing defense that started to take the Generals apart. The Washington & Lee lead eventually disappeared and Virginia Wesleyan went on to post a thrilling 60-58 semifinal victory at the Salem Civic Center. The Marlins will play for the College's first ODAC championship on Sunday, at 1 p.m. VWC has finished as runner-up four times, including three times in the past five years. The current total of 22 victories ties the second highest in program history and is two shy of the VWC record of 24 set in 1986, and NCAA tournament year for the Marlins.
Getting to the 2012 title tilt took a strong effort by Virginia Wesleyan however, which started with a renewed defensive effort and alert offensive play. ODAC Rookie of the Year Sarah Seipp (Gaithersburg, Md./Gaithersburg) put the offense into motion on a 22-5 run when she hit a big triple and drew a foul. The four-point play with 14:21 on the clock not only cut the deficit to 43-36, but also sparked the rest of the Marlins.
While Seipp scored eight consecutive points on one end, the Virginia Wesleyan defense stepped up to force General shots which did not drop. The Marlins were there for the rebounds to continue the rally.
Senior Kristen Blalock (Suffolk, Va./Portsmouth Christian) hit four consecutive free throws to pull the Marlins within two points, and senior Jocelyn Spencer (Newport News, Va./Menchville) drove inside for a score that gave Virginia Wesleyan a 47-46 lead with 9:29 remaining in the game.
Rookie sparkplug Brittany Glasco (Fredericksburg, Va./Massaponax) came up with a steal and Spencer topped it off with a layup to extend the VWC lead to 49-46. Seconds later the Marlins had the ball again and Seipp hit a layup to make it a 51-46 game with 6:01 on the clock.
It was anything but over however, as Washington & Lee came back with big triples from seniors Kari Ann Pfaffenstien (Littleton, Colo./Heritage) and Meg Ingram (Greensboro, N.C./Ragsdale) to cut the VWC lead to 60-58 with 44 seconds on the clock. After a time out with 25 seconds on the clock, the Marlins missed a couple triple attempts and Washington & Lee had the ball for the final 12.9 seconds.
Virginia Wesleyan's defense once again applied the pressure and the Generals scrambled to find a shot as the clock ticked off the final seconds. A scoring attempt at the buzzer was short.
Virginia Wesleyan lead early in the game, using a 7-0 run to open up a 9-2, helped by a timely triple from junior Rachael Miller (Sterling, Va./Park View). But, after a time out, the Generals came back patiently and used a 15-2 run to help open up a 29-21 lead at halftime.
Blalock scored 13 points in the second half and led the Marlins overall with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Seipp put in 10 points in the second half and finished with 12 and a team-leading four steals. Spencer added seven points in the half and tallied 11 overall, and senior ShawneeLewis (Alexandria, Va./Thomas A. Edison) scored nine in the second half and finished with 11.
Virginia Wesleyan was limited to 2-of-2 free throws in the first half, while Washington & Lee hit 11-of-17. But, the Marlins hit all 12 attempts they had in the second half to finish at 14-of-14 from the charity stripes, led by Blalock and Lewis at 6-of-6 each. The Generals hit 17-of-24 overall, led by Ingram's 7-of-9.
Ingram led all scoring overall with 18 points. Katy Wilson (Chattanooga, Tenn./Baylor) added 12 points for the Generals and Becca Bolton (Pittsboro, N.C./Chatham Central) and Rachel Warwick (Herndon, Va./Langley) scored nine each.