Division III Women

Mary Washington Falls Just Short

By Kathy Orton
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, March 17, 2007

SPRINGFIELD, Mass., March 16 -- Difficult as it was after such a disheartening loss, the Mary Washington women's basketball team tried to find solace in its accomplishments this season. Winning a school-record 30 games and making their first trip to the Final Four brought little comfort, however, after the Eagles came up short against DePauw on Friday afternoon in the Division III national semifinals.

Mary Washington's inability to score in the final minutes led to its 67-61 defeat at Blake Arena and cost the Eagles a trip to the title game. Instead, DePauw (30-3) moves on to its first championship game on Saturday against Washington (Mo.), a 72-53 winner over New York University in the second semifinal. Mary Washington (30-3), which hadn't lost since Dec. 8, will play NYU in Saturday's consolation game.

"You really are proud of your team, your teammates, everything you've done," forward Debbie Bruen said. "So you really can't be completely upset with [the loss]. But at the same time, we're all very competitive. We want to be out there in the championship game [on Saturday]. So that's not a good feeling at all, but you're definitely proud."

Bruen (Paul VI Catholic), who was named a Division III Kodak all-American on Friday, was a big reason Mary Washington built a 10-point first half lead. She scored the Eagles first seven points and had nine by halftime.

Defense carried the Eagles early. Mary Washington, which holds its opponents to a 29.9 percent shooting and 46.7 points per game, prevented DePauw from making a field goal for nearly 4 1/2 minutes late in the first half. Forward Liz Bondi, who joined Bruen as a Division III all-American, scored half of the Tigers' points in the first half. She added 15 more in the second half to finish with 28 points.

The Eagles' lead, however, was just 31-26 going into halftime because of their sloppiness with the ball. Mary Washington committed 15 first-half turnovers and 23 for the game.

DePauw took its first lead on a jump shot by Gretchen Haehl 3 1/2 minutes into the second half. Fifteen seconds later, Liz Hickey answered with a layup to tie the score at 35. From that point on, no team held a lead greater than five points until the final seconds.

With just more than five minutes remaining, Bruen made a layup that put Mary Washington ahead, 57-56. On the Eagles next possession, Ashton Mitchell made one of two free throws to increase the lead to two. That was the last point Mary Washington would score over the next four minutes. DePauw closed out the game on an 11-3 run. The Eagles only points came on a three-pointer by Bruen with 20 seconds to play.

"I'm just proud that we came this far," said Mary Washington Coach Deena Applebury, who was named the Division III coach of the year Friday. "I'm proud of my team for the efforts that they put out not only throughout the course of this game, but throughout the entire season. They've held their heads high. They've represented this university and program extremely well. I'm just very proud of each and every one of them."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company