Elite 8: Go fourth and conquer

More news about: Bowdoin | Scranton | St. Thomas | Thomas More
St. Thomas had plenty to celebrate throughout the evening as the Tommies secured their seventh trip to the national semifinals and second in three seasons.
Photo by Caleb Williams, d3photography.com

Strong fourth quarters sent Scranton and Thomas More to the Final Four on Saturday night, while Bowdoin and St. Thomas punched their tickets to the national semifinals with ease.

No. 9 Scranton shut out No. 4 Tufts for the final eight minutes of the game and finished on a 15-0 run to beat the Jumbos, 44-40. With a little over eight minutes left, Tufts Cailin Harrington hit a jump shot to put the Jumbos ahead 40-29 in front of a full but silent John J. Long Center crowd. The Lady Royals called timeout and gradually clawed their way back into the game. Senior Bridgette Mann hit a jumper to ignite the Scranton crowd and cut Tufts' lead to 40-35, and the Lady Royals followed that with a three from Makenzie Mason and a game-tying layup from Sofia Recupero with 2:03 to play. Tufts called timeout and got a good look for Erica DeCandido, but her shot rimmed out and Tufts fouled Mason on the Scranton's next possession. She sunk both free throws and Tufts' potential game-winning three rimmed out, allowing the Royals to grab the rebound and seal the win.

In a game where both teams struggled to score, Mason scored 14 points on 5 for 10 shooting and Mann narrowly missed a double-double (nine points, nine rebounds). Scranton, which was eliminated by Tufts in the 2016 and 2017 Tournaments, advanced to its 10th national semifinal and its first since 2007. Friday's national semifinal will also be the Lady Royals' 100th NCAA Tournament game in program history.

No. 1 Thomas More awaits after Madison Temple errupted for 18 of her 36 points in the fourth quarter and Thomas More streaked past the Bears, 87-72. After falling behind 22-11 at the end of one period, Wash U. caught fire from downtown and grabbed a 57-56 lead entering the final period. Midway through the fourth quarter, Temple took over, following a made jump shot with a three-point play and extending the Saints' lead to 70-62. The Bears responded with five straight points, only to see Temple convert another three-point play. Temple put the game out of reach by scoring five points over a 29-second span and giving Thomas More an insurmountable 80-70 lead. 

“We couldn’t stop them for a while. They were shooting the heck out of the three,” said Saints coach Jeff Hans. “We put the ball in Madison’s hands and let her make decisions, and then we were finally able to get some stops.”

On top of her 36 points, Temple notched nine rebounds and seven assists and Shelby Rupp added 18 points and seven boards for the Saints. Madeline Homoly scored 27 points in her final game at Wash U. Thomas More advances to its third national semifinal, not counting the 2015 vacated season.

Tufts' head coach Carla Berube could only watch as Scranton completed a 15-0 game-closing rally in Saturday's sectional finals.
Photo by Tim Dougherty, Tufts athletics

No. 3 Bowdoin didn't need a fourth-quarter rally because the Polar Bears seized control of their game against Ithaca at the end of the third quarter on their way to an 87-61 victory. Hannah Graham's 3-pointer with two seconds remaining in the second quarter gave Bowdoin some breathing room and a 36-31 halftime lead and then the Polar Bears opened the second half with back-to-back baskets by Taylor Choate and Abby Kelly. Choate pushed the lead to 13 near the end of third quarter with steal and a fastbreak layup and then the Polar Bears poured it on in the fourth quarter.

All five Bowdoin starters scored double figures led by Choate who finished with 21 points, six assists, five rebounds and three steals. Maddie Hasson added a double-double (16 points, 11 rebounds) for the Polar Bears who will make their third trip to the national semifinals and second in a row.

The Polar Bears will face No. 2 St. Thomas which tied a school record with 16 3-pointers and avenged its only loss of the season by steamrolling No. 11 Wartburg, 85-56. The Tommies used a 10-0 run that started with two Hannah Spaulding free throws at the end of the first quarter to build a 27-14 lead. Spaulding nearly had a double-double in the first half alone, getting 12 points and eight rebounds before the break. St. Thomas shot 10-for-18 from three in the first half and took a 43-27 lead to the locker room.

Any hopes of a Wartburg rally were erased early in the second half when Kaia Porter hit a three, Lucia Renikoff had a steal and a layup and Porter added another three two possessions later, putting St. Thomas ahead 57-31. Renikoff scored 22 points on 8-for-13 shooting, 5-for-9 from three, including her 200th career 3-pointer. Spaulding finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds, and Kelsie Cox scored 15 points for St. Thomas.  The sophomore class which had such a big night for Wartburg on Friday was held to a combined 27 points.

St. Thomas heads to its seventh national semifinal, with its last one coming just two years ago. Three of the four national semifinalists have won at least one national championship in their program history, with Bowdoin looking for its first.

The home teams finish the 2019 NCAA Tournament with a 37-2 record since the national semifinals will be played on a neutral court at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia next weekend. This is also the second season in a row that the top three teams in the country advanced to the national semifinals and the fourth consecutive time that the top two teams in the country have done so.