CALDWELL, N.J. – It took extra time but the No. 13/23 Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University) women's basketball team (29-2) are CACC Champions, defeating USciences (29-2), 74-73 in overtime on Sunday in another classic between the two city rivals. It is the third CACC title for the Rams (2008-09, 2015-16).
With the victory, Jefferson receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Rams will find out their place in the bracket when the selections are announced Sunday night at 10 p.m. Jefferson was the second seed in the South Division and is ranked 13th in this week's WBCA Coaches Poll and 23rd in the D2SIDA Media Poll. USciences was the top seed and the Devils are fourth in both national rankings.
The Rams trailed 56-53 entering the fourth quarter. The two teams stayed close throughout until the Devils increased their lead to five (68-63) with 2:37 left. Senior Jessica Kaminski made a pair of free throws (2:30) to close the gap to three. USciences came up empty on two possessions before senior Erin Maher drilled a game-tying three with 1:09 to go. The Devils had a chance to win it but their shot attempt was off the mark at the buzzer.
In overtime, senior Beverly Kum made a free throw to put Jefferson ahead by one. A layup and free throw gave USciences a two-point advantage with 3:12 on the clock. Maher tied the score with a pair of foul shots before the Devils regained the lead with a layup. Sophomore Caitlyn Cunningham made a layup at the 1:40 mark and the score was tied at 73. Each team missed a jump shot but Kaminski came down with an offensive rebound and was fouled with 51 seconds left. She made one of two at the line to put the Rams in front. USciences had one last chance to win the game but Kum got a hand on the shot attempt and Maher came down with the board as the buzzer sounded and the Rams celebrated their conference championship.
Both teams started off strong in the opening quarter, with the Devils shooting 56.3% in the first quarter and the Rams, 47.1%. There were four lead changes in the period as the squads countered each other up and down the floor. Jefferson was ahead 18-15 when USciences went on a 7-0 run to go up 22-18 with 52 seconds on the clock. The Rams tallied the last three points to trail 22-21 after one.
Jefferson shot just 4-for-14 in the second but outscored the Devils, 13-12. USciences built up its lead to 31-27 with 5:32 to go. The Rams then ended the period with seven of the last 10 points, with Cunningham's jumper tying the game at 34 heading into halftime. Cunningham had 15 points in the first half on 5-of-8 shooting.
The offense was full speed ahead in the third, with both teams shooting over 50 percent. The Devils hit the first shot to take a three-point lead and never trailed in the stanza. However, the margin was never more than five points as the teams traded shots. Jefferson was down by three (56-53) going into the fourth.
BY THE NUMBERS
- Kaminski scored a team-high 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds with four assists and two steals. She was 6-for-12 from the field.
- Cunningham finished with 17 points, four assists, three rebounds and one steal.
- Maher recorded a double-double with 12 points, 13 boards, two blocks and one assist.
- Kum notched 16 points.
AS A TEAM
- The Rams were 24-of-61 (39.3%) from the field, 5-of-13 (38.5%) from three-point range and 21-of-30 (70.0%) at the line.
- Jefferson won the battle on the glass, 43-38.
- Cunningham, Kaminski and Maher were named to the All-CACC Tournament Team with Kaminski earning Most Outstanding Player honors.
- The Rams committed less than 10 turnovers for the sixth time this season.
- Jefferson will head to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year, the 10th time under head coach Tom Shirley and the 12th time overall.
- The victory was head coach Tom Shirley's 777th of his career and the 628th at the helm of the Rams.