VIRGINIA BEACH -- Virginia Wesleyan College women's basketball coach Stephany Dunmyer could have been upset that her Marlins nearly gave up most of what was once a stunning 22 point lead against Old Dominion Athletic Conference power Eastern Mennonite University.
But, there wasn't any room to be upset with a gutsy effort by a team that gave her a milestone 150th career victory with a 66-58 victory over the Royals at the Jane P. Batten Student Center on Saturday.
While EMU (2-3, 1-1 ODAC) came on strong in the second half to pull within a 60-56 score with 1:46 on the clock, Virginia Wesleyan (4-3, 2-0 ODAC) repeatedly benefited from step-up plays in pressured situations.
Sophomore Andrea Paphites (Virginia Beach/Princess Anne) came up with two key baskets in a span of 30 seconds, and sophomore Sarah Seipp (Gaithersburg, Md./Gaithersburg) nailed a big triple off an assist by sophomore Brittany Glasco (Fredericksburg/Massaponax) down the stretch to answer EMU baskets.
But, it was junior Katie Tassa (Bristow/Manassas Osbourn Park) who came up huge for the Marlins after Royals junior Bianca Ygarza (Conestoga, Pa./Penn Manor) hit a jumper to pull EMU within a a 60-56 count. JuniorSymonne Newsome (Reistertown, Md./St. Paul's School for Girls) fed the ball to Tassa who rolled in for a layup that drew a foul with 1:10 on the clock. Tassa completed the three-point play and VWC led 63-56.
Ygarza scored again for EMU with 57 seconds remaining, but it was the final tally of the game for the Royals. Virginia Wesleyan worked the clock and protected the ball, drawing fouls that helped the Marlins to pad the lead. Tassa and Newsome both hit free throws in the final seconds.
The hectic closing minutes capped a game that was dominated by Virginia Wesleyan, particularly in the first half. Senior stalwart Rachael Miller (Sterling Park/Park View) hit a pair of triples en route to scoring the first 11 points of the game for the Marlins, who never trailed in the contest.
Virginia Wesleyan stunned the Royals with a 22-6 scoring blitz in a span of seven minutes to open up a 35-13 lead with 7:01 remaining before halftime. Six Marlins scored in the run, led by Seipp who scored 11 points, hitting a trio of triples to help expand the lead quickly.
Raiven Patterson (Pulaski/Pulaski County), Jess Rheinheimer (Manheim, Pa./Lancaster Mennonite), and Alisa Brown (Dumfries/Forest Park) helped EMU cut the spread to 17 points in the seconds before halftime. But, Virginia Wesleyan pushed the spread back to 20 points at 38-18 when Tassa hit a three-pointer from the top of the key before the halftime buzzer.
Eastern Mennonite outscored VWC 11-4 in the first four minutes of the second half to spark its comeback and continued to take advantage of a Marlins team that hit a cold spell. Virginia Wesleyan hit just two of its first 14 shot attempts, missing on five three-point attempts.
But, Virginia Wesleyan produced the big plays down the stretch to notch its fourth straight win against EMU in a series that started in 1978. Virginia Wesleyan leads the series overall, 33-17.
Seipp led all scoring with 21 points, helped by a 5-of-11 effort from three-point range. Miller and Tassa both contributed with 11 points. Sophomore Nancy Kelly (Phoenix, Md./Dulaney) led all rebounding with a career high 12. She also blocked a pair of shots.
Ygarza led EMU scoring with 14 points, followed by Steph Rheinheimer (Manheim, Pa./Lancaster Mennonite) with 10. Kala Yoders (Myerstown, Pa./Eastern Lebanon County) finished with nine points and nine rebounds.
Virginia Wesleyan helped itself with a 10-of-30 showing from three point range, tying the fourth highest single-game total of triples made in program history. The Marlins also outrebounded EMU 45-41. Eastern Mennonite enjoyed success at the charity stripes, hitting 15-of-19 attempts.
Virginia Wesleyan competes again on Tuesday, December 4, in a non-conference contest against Marymount University in Arlington, Va. Tip-off is slated for 6 p.m.