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Cal U wins battle, loses war

| Tuesday, March 19, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
California University's Stephanie Michael drives through the Gannon defense during the first half of Monday's NCAA Division II Atlantic Region championship game.

Going into the championship game of the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region Monday night, California University women's basketball coach Jess Strom said her Vulcans had one chance of upsetting top-seed Gannon.

And that was defense.

Strom said that the Vulcans would have to keep the score in the 50s for a shot to win and move on to the NCAA Elite Eight.

Well, deep into the first half, it appeared as if Strom was more than getting her wish as with just over three minutes remaining before halftime, Cal was clinging to an 11-9 lead.

Both teams were shooting poorly as Gannon made just four of its first 22 shots (18.2 percent) and the Vulcans hit only four of 17 (23.5 percent). And the teams combined for 17 turnovers, nine of them committed by Gannon.

Things got even better for Cal as successive steals by Chelsea McKnight and Stephanie Michael were converted into layups, followed by a three-pointer by Michael and Cal held an 18-9 lead with 1:45 left in the half.

In the end, the Vulcans held the high-scoring Golden Knights to the 50-point plateau Strom hoped for, but it wasn't enough.

The Vulcans couldn't overcome their own second half cold spell as they dropped a 50-47 decision at Hammermill Center.

Gannon (31-4) will now advance to the Elite Eight in San Antonio, Tex., on March 26-28.

Cal (22-9) took an 18-13 lead into intermission with the Vulcans going 7-for-23 from the floor (30.4 percent) and the Golden Knights even worse at 6-for-27 (22.2 percent).

In the second half, the Vulcans led 27-24 with 10:38 left when Ashley Hines scored.

However, Cal didn't score again for over seven minutes and the Golden Knights went on a 10-0 to open up a 34-27 lead with 3:11 to play.

Gannon's Nettie Blake was a big thorn in Cal's side in the spree as she scored seven consecutive points.

With 8:47 to play, Blake made two free throws to give Gannon its first lead since early in the game, 28-27. Then she made three straight baskets for the 34-27 lead.

It was 36-27 when Cal finally broke the skein when Irini Kukolj made a layup to make it 36-29 with 3:11 to go.

The Vulcans didn't give up as they closed to 38-31 when Hines made a three-point-play with 1:50 to play.

Cal made it 38-34 when Kate Seebohm converted a three-point-play of her own with 1:13 left.

But the Golden Knights kept their space as Glass made four free throws and Kelley Sundberg added two more.

When Papich made a basket with 46 seconds left, Gannon's lead was 44-36.

Michael hit back-to-back three-pointers to pull Cal with 47-45 with 24 seconds left, but that was close as the Vulcans would get as the Golden Knights continued to hit their free throws.

The Vulcans did have one last chance, but Micheal missed a three-point attempt with 10 seconds to play.

Michael and Hines each finished with 12 points to lead Cal. Hines also grabbed 10 rebounds.

Gannon was paced by Glass' game-high 15 points and 12 from Blake. Blake also grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds.

REGION CLIPS: For the game, Cal shot 31.6 percent from the field (18-57) while Gannon made just 28.3 percent (15-53) of its shots ... Cal finished with 17 turnovers while Gannon had 18 ... While the Vulcans made six of seven free throws, the Golden Knights made 18 of 26, with most coming in the final three minutes when Cal was forced to foul ... Seebohm had five assists.

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