Messiah 83, Marymount 82
With seven minutes left tonight, Marymount senior forward Jodie Knotts glanced up at the scoreboard. She liked what she saw.
Marymount held a nine-point advantage and was only minutes away from earning the right to play for a return trip to the NCAA Division III Final Four.
Christina Vouriotis had other ideas. The 5-foot-11 senior forward scored 14 points in those final seven minutes to rally Messiah (Pa.) to an 83-82 victory in a round-of-16 game at the University of Rochester.
"I really thought we were going to win," Knotts said of the moment she realized the Saints led by nine. "It just didn't end up that way."
And Vouriotis was the reason why, finishing with 31 points to lead the Falcons into the quarterfinals.
Annetta Benjamin -- the Saints' premier defender -- drew her defensive assignment but could do little as Vouriotis hit shot after shot from every area on the floor.
"That Vouriotis is not a bad player," Saints Coach Bill Finney joked after the game. "Annetta did a great job defensively, but I think she got a little tired at the end. [Vouriotis] is just a great player."
Knotts -- after a first half in which she shot 1 of 6 from the field and committed three fouls -- finished with 22 points, as Marymount finished its season 23-7.
Vouriotis gave the Falcons the lead for good with 1 minute 14 seconds left, converting a layup to take a 75-74 lead.
"Christina steps up when she needs to," Messiah Coach Mike Miller said. "That's just the type of player she is."
Vouriotis then hit 4 of 6 free throws (one was missed intentionally) to seal the win for Messiah (28-2). Marymount hit two three-pointers in the final 16 seconds, but it was too late, as the Saints saw their season end with a round-of-16 loss to Messiah for the second time in three years.
This win -- much like its double overtime win two years ago -- didn't come without a struggle. The Falcons -- ranked No. 11 nationally by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association -- didn't expect this contest to be this close.
"Honestly I thought we'd be up by nine points at that point, not down nine points," Miller said.
"And it's nothing against them; we've just been playing very well the past seven weeks."
Miller might not have expected to trail, but the Saints didn't expect to have their season come to an end.
"It's hard for us to come to a stop like this," said senior Ashlee Courter, who finished with 13 points and five assists before fouling out.
"We just hit a brick wall, and I don't know how we're going to recover."