Sunday, March 13, 2016

VUU Lady Panthers Reach Atlantic Region Championship

RICHMOND, Virginia  (3/12/16) -- The Panthers are going to the Atlantic Region final.

Kiana Johnson scored 31 points, Lady Walker added a double-double of 14 points and 17 rebounds, and Virginia Union led for more than 35 minutes in a 75-66 win over Wheeling Jesuit on Saturday in the NCAA Division II region semifinals at Barco-Stevens Hall.

The Panthers will face West Liberty, a 68-62 winner over California (Pa.) earlier Saturday, in the final Monday at 7 p.m.

Jaila Bryant scored 18 points, and Chenelle Moore added 13 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Mountain East Conference champions.

"This was a very resilient Wheeling Jesuit team," said Union coach AnnMarie Gilbert. "They played very hard. They hit shots. They drove us to the basket. Just a nice inside-out attack, but I was really pleased with how our kids fought back.

"We were able to manage a 10-point lead early, and Wheeling Jesuit continued to chip into that lead, but I'm just really excited about how our kids fought."

Rahni Bell provided an early spark, scoring Union's first nine points, including a pair of 3s, propelling the Panthers to a 19-15 lead after one quarter.

Bell finished the game with four 3s and 17 points.

Union outscored the Cardinals 24-18 in the second quarter for a 43-33 lead at halftime. Bell and Johnson each scored 17 for the hosts before intermission. Union hit 5 of 9 3-point attempts, four coming from Bell.

Jaila Bryant led Wheeling Jesuit with 18 points, Chenelle Moore had 13, and Mariah Callen added 10. The Cardinals were 4 of 9 from behind the arc.

The lead fell to single digits for moments, but was 10 points for most of the third and fourth quarters. Union held a 60-50 lead entering the final quarter.

The Cardinals cut it to 7 with about 90 seconds left, but Union hit free throws late.

Lots of rest (Johnson and Walker played all 40 minutes Friday and Saturday), film study and a light walkthrough are what the Panthers have planned to prepare for Monday.

"Just trying to figure out how to guard (West Liberty)," said Gilbert. "Just best strategies is all we're going to be working on. The rest is just going to be lots of rest, hydration, and try to get the win on Monday night."

It will be the last game of the season at Barco-Stevens Hall for the Panthers, who are undefeated in their home building this year.

West Liberty, the No. 3 seed, received an at-large bid to the tournament after falling to Wheeling Jesuit in the Mountain East championship. 


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