March 25, 2004

Vulcans beat defending champions to reach Final Four

ST. JOSEPH, MO – There will be a new national champion in Division II women’s basketball.

The California Vulcans knocked off the defending title-holders, South Dakota State, 96-79 on Wednesday in a thrilling contest.

Things seemed bleak for Cal (33-1) in the beginning, as the Vulcans trailed 14-6 in the opening five and a half minutes. If the scoreline wasn’t bad enough, there was more bad news. Sara McKinney picked up her third foul just seven minutes into the game, yet California coach Darcie Vincent had little choice but to leave her in the game. McKinney responded by scoring the next four points to close the gap to two before Vincent removed her from the game.

“ We weren’t fluent in the first half and it hurts even more when your star player is on the bench with not two, but three fouls in the first half,” Vincent said.

“Tonight it took a little longer to find our rhythm, but eventually we did.”

“ We play very well as a team,” added Becky Siembak. “When Sara’s out, the rest of us know we have to step up our game. That’s what makes us so good.”

Cal roared back and eventually claimed a 42-40 halftime lead. Then the Vulcans went on a run to start the second half that put them in control of the game, out-scoring the Jackrabbits (26-7) 20-6 and held a 16-point lead. Among the leading scorers for California in the second half was Erin Dillon, who hit four three-pointers after the break and six for the game to finish with 18 points.

“ My teammates kept setting me up with good screens,” Dillon said. “All I had to do was make the shots, and fortunately I did. I don’t think they respected my shot.”

“ Dillon was unbelievable,” added SDSU coach Aaron Johnston. “It seemed that every time we did something well on offense, she would hit a three like it was a Sunday afternoon and stop any momentum we gained.”

The Jackrabbits made the game interesting by closing the gap to 73-67 with eight minutes remaining, but the Vulcans went on another of their patented runs, this one of the 10-0 variety to effectively end the contest.

Four other Cal players scored in double figures, led by Megan Storck’s 20 points. She also dished out 12 assists while playing the entire game. Sameera Philyaw and Siembak each scored 17 points while McKinney added 16 points.

The Vulcans shot an amazing 74.1% from the floor in the second half to finish at 58% for the game.

“ I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team shoot that high, especially in the Elite Eight and against us,” said South Dakota State’s Stacie Cizek.

“ Looking at our stats, I would’ve felt pretty good until I looked at theirs,” Johnson said. “Cal played really well tonight and are one of the best teams we’ve played. I don’t think there’s anyone we’ve played that can beat them.”

Siembak is now six points shy of 2,000 for her career. McKinney scored her 1,500th point.

Cal U women’s basketball to meet South Dakota State at Elite Eight Championship Tournament

The California University Vulcan women’s basketball team (32-1) will meet the South Dakota State Jackrabbits (26-6) in the NCAA Division II women’s basketball championships at St. Joseph’s Missouri.

The Vulcans won the NCAA East Region last weekend when they defeated Glenville State, 74-63 at Hamer Gym, and SDSU defeated the University of North Dakota 72-70 in over-time to win the North Central region. The brackets for the championship tournament are set several years in advance of the tournament and the committee does not seed or reseed the teams for the tournament.

This will be the second consecutive appearance for the Vulcans who lost last season to Northern Kentucky University in the semi-final game. SDSU will be making their third consecutive appearance and they are the defending national champions having won last year’s tournament that was also played at St. Joe’s.

This season will mark the Jackrabbits final tournament appearance as they are moving up to Division I next year.

The Vulcans only loss of the season came on February 21 when they were defeated at Shippensburg, 77-73. Since that game they Vulcans have not given up more than the 63 points Glenville scored last Saturday.

Cal and SDSU have never met before but the Vulcans and Jackrabbits men’s teams have played each other in the men’s national tournament. Cal U won that game, 84-73 at Springfield, Mass., in 1991-92, and moved to the national semi-final game.

The Cal games will be carried live on WVCS, FM 92, and they can be heard via the Cal U web page. The games will be televised tape-delayed on CUTV( at least a 2-day delay).

Cal’s first game is Wednesday evening at 9 pm EST. If they advance they will play on Thursday at 9 pm, EST.

The national championship game will be televised live on ESPN 2 on Saturday, March 27, at 6 pm, EST.

Cal women repeat as East region champions!

CALIFORNIA, PA – This was the game everyone wanted to see: California University of PA vs. Glenville State College. The two schools met in the East region final the previous two seasons, splitting the decisions, and faced off in the rubber match on Monday night, with the victor being crowned the champion of the East.

The winner of Round 3, by a 74-63 margin: California, becoming the first PSAC school to win two straight East region titles.

From the start, the game looked like it would be no contest. The Vulcans (32-1) scored the first six points of the game and nine of the first 11. But not so fast, said the Pioneers (29-4), who came back with a 21-8 run and took a 23-17 lead, a lead they would not relinquish for quite some time. At halftime, Glenville led 39-34, and the capacity crowd at Hamer Hall was silent, save for the several hundred Glenville supporters.

California, however, would not let its home crowd down. The Vulcans cut the Pioneers’ lead down to one twice in the first four minutes of the second half, then took the lead when Sameera Philyaw, named East region MVP, converted a three-point play to give Cal a 51-50 advantage. The teams exchanged baskets, then Sara McKinney drained a 16-foot jumper that gave the Vulcans the lead to stay and got the gymnasium jumping.

“ We’ve pulled in some great crowds this season,” said Cal coach Darcie Vincent. “The crowd is our sixth man. I’m absolutely amazed and pleased with the large amount of people they packed into this place. This was a great atmosphere tonight.”

Glenville’s head coach Steve Harold agreed.

“ The crowd was outstanding tonight,” he said. “In the beginning of the game, we wanted to come out and take Cal’s fans out of the game.”

Cal extended the lead to 66-56 with just under five minutes to play, despite playing several minutes with McKinney and Becky Siembak each playing with four fouls. Vincent took a gamble leaving both players in with so much time remaining. Siembak played the rest of the game, while McKinney fouled out at the 2:42 mark and the Vulcans leading 68-58.

“ I knew I wasn’t coming out of the game, even when I got my fourth foul,” Siembak said. “Coach knows I’m smart enough to avoid getting a fifth foul.”

The gamble paid off, as Siembak hit two foul shots with 57.7 seconds remaining that all but iced the game at 71-63. Siembak was one of four Vulcans to notch double-doubles. She had 10 points and 10 rebounds, while McKinney scored 22 points to go with 10 rebounds, Philyaw scored game-highs in points (25) and rebounds (13) and Megan Storck added 16 points and dished out 10 assists. In the process, Storck set a new Cal single-season assist record with 249 and scored her 800th career point (802).

Pacing the way for Glenville were Carrie Triplett with 20 points, Rachel Redick with 17 points and Tracy Wyatt scoring 15 points. Wyatt and Triplett were named to the all-tournament team, along with McKinney, Keauna Vinson of Barton (N.C.) and LaShonda Chiles of Anderson (S.C.)

“ I think this was a great game,” said Vincent. “It was anyone’s ballgame at any time.”

“ I’d really like to congratulate Cal,” Harold said. “They played a heck of a ballgame and are an outstanding team.”

The Vulcans, who extended their home winning streak to 55 games, go on to face South Dakota State, the defending national champions, in the Elite Eight on March 24 at 9 p.m.

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