CALDWELL, N.J. (March 10, 2019) -- In a matchup that many expected throughout the season, Jefferson and the University of the Sciences did not disappoint on Sunday with an epic contest in the 2018-19 Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) Women's Basketball Championship Final, ultimately won by the Rams in overtime by a count of 74-73.
Jefferson trailed by six in the later stages of the game, but rallied with some clutch shots and timely defensive stands to knot the score in regulation and then win it in extra time. It marked the program's second CACC crown in the last four seasons and first since 2016. Jefferson also ended USciences' bid for three-straight CACC Championships, as the Devils knocked off Caldwell University in the 2017 final, and downed the Rams in last season's title tilt.
The win enabled the Rams to lock up the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Divison II East Region Tournament next weekend, as they most surely will earn a high seed (top 3) heading into the NCAAs. Jefferson will not only enter the regional on a roll following Sunday's championship victory, but will also be able to play with confidence after last season's strong showing against Bentley in the NCAA first round despite a tough setback. That performance helped propel the Rams to a fantastic 2018-19 season to date, as they are currently ranked No. 13 in the national polls.
Jessica Kaminski scored a team-high 19 points for the Rams, as she earned most valuable player honors in the championship. Her strong post-season play came on the heels of a fantastics regular season where she was named the CACC Player of the Year. Erin Maher ripped down 13 rebounds and joined Kaminski on the All-Tournament Team. Caitlyn Cunningham added 17 points, as she too, collected All-Tournament accolades.
USciences was led by Irisa Ye's game-high 20 points, while Alex Thomas added 17. Both student-athletes were named to the All-Tournament Team. Mikaela Giuliani came off the bench to post a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds. Despite the setback, USciences will definitely earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Regional and most likely be the top seed entering the national tournament. It will be the third-straight year USciences advances to the NCAAs, as it reached the second round in 2017 and made it all the way to the regional final in 2018.
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.
2018-19 CACC WOMEN'S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Tina LeBron (Caldwell)
Jada Atchison (Georgian Court)
Amanda McGrogan (Goldey-Beacom)
Irisa Ye (USciences)
Alex Thomas (USciences)
Erin Maher (Jefferson)
Jessica Kaminski (Jefferson)
Caitlyn Cunningham (Jefferson)
MVP: Jessica Kaminski (Jefferson)
ABOUT THE CACC
The Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference is an NCAA Division II Conference composed of 14 institutions in Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The member institutions are Bloomfield College, Caldwell University, Chestnut Hill College, Concordia (N.Y.) College, Dominican (N.Y.) College, Felician University, Georgian Court University, Goldey-Beacom College, Holy Family University, Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University), Nyack College, Post University of Waterbury, University of the Sciences, and Wilmington University.