BY JUSTUS STURTEVANT, STAFF WRITER
The Susquehanna women’s basketball team proved they can play with anyone in the conference Saturday, coming up one bucket short of knocking off Moravian, a team which came into the game tied for second place in the Landmark Conference.
The 67-65 Moravian victory pushed the Greyhounds to 14-3 (5-1 Landmark), while the Crusaders fell to 8-8 (2-4).
Senior guard Mariah Monahan led the Susquehanna offense with 16 points and four assists. Junior Jonaida Williams contributed as well, adding 15 points and connecting four times from beyond the arc, while freshman forward Nicole Gault recorded a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
The game was close from the start, featuring nine ties and 11 lead changes. Susquehanna jumped out to a 9-6 lead in the first five minutes of the game thanks to five points from Williams.
However, the Greyhounds came right back, tying up the score at 15 with 10 minutes to play in the first half. The teams continued to battle, unable to put any distance between themselves for the rest of the half. Despite five ties in the final 10 minutes of the half, the Crusaders did manage to take a two-point edge into the locker room, leading 36-34.
Moravian sunk a jumper at the buzzer to cut the Crusaders’ lead to two heading into the break.
The Crusaders came out of the locker room strong in the second half, going on a 10-4 run giving them a little breathing room for the first time all game. It started with a layup by freshman guard Heather Zinn, closely followed by ones from Williams and freshman guard Nikki Komara.
A Monahan jumper and a pair of made free throws pushed the lead to eight.
As they would all game, the Greyhounds responded with a 13-5 run of their own to tie the game at 51. From that point on, neither team led by more than four as they battled right down to the buzzer. The Crusaders managed to take a four-point lead with 3:52 left in the game when Zinn knocked down a three-pointer.
The Greyhounds then scored eight unanswered, taking a four-point lead of their own into the final minute of play, 67-63.
With 53 seconds left in regulation, Monahan was fouled and hit both ensuing free throws to pull her team within two. A block by Gault then gave the Crusaders one last possession with 21 seconds on the clock.
Following a time-out, the Crusaders put the ball in the hands of their leading scorer for the final play, but Monahan turned it over, and Moravian got their fifth conference win on the season.
The game was tied at 63 with 3:05 left before the Greyhounds scored four of the final six points to come away with a tight win over the Crusaders.
Following the game, Susquehanna head coach Jim Reed said: “Our team seems to get better each and every day. Moravian was picked first in the conference, and we went out there and there were 11 lead changes, nine ties; it was nip and tuck the whole way. I’m really proud of the girls and so happy of the development of the team.”
Reed said he saw the difference in the game coming at the free-throw line.
“The bottom line was they made fifteen out of sixteen free throws and we made nine out of fifteen,” he said. “If we make twelve out of fifteen we win the game.”
The Crusaders will look to rebound when they host conference foe Juniata on Jan. 29. With eight conference games left, they sit just a game back of Drew for the fourth and final playoff spot.