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#20 CNU women cruise in wire-to-wire win at NCAA Tourney against Widener

The Captains pulled away from Widener College in the NCAA Division III opening round, 82-66 on Friday.
Credit: CNU Athletics

SCRANTON, Pa. — For the fifth consecutive season, the nationally-ranked Christopher Newport women's basketball team won at least one game in the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament when they pulled away from Widener College in the opening round, 82-66. Playing in a neutral site contest at the University of Scranton, the Captains saw four players finish in double figures in a wire-to-wire win advancing Christopher Newport to the second round against Endicott College, who upset host Scranton in the opening round.

The Captains improved to 24-4 overall with their 16th consecutive victory, the fourth longest active win streak in Division III. Widener concludes their season with a 21-6 overall record after falling in their first tournament appearance since 2013.

Christopher Newport never trailed in the game after winning the opening tip and scoring on a second-chance bucket during their first possession of the game. Offensive rebounds would prove crucial in the game as the Captains, who rank in the top-ten nationally in o-boards, hauled in 24 in the game including 16 in the first half. In the game, the Captains would record 26 second-chance points while Widener managed just five in their opportunities.

Sophomore Sondra Fan was the beneficiary of the first pair of second-chance points off an assist from Julia Ng. After that, the Captains turned to the three-point shot to build their early advantage. Phylicia McInnis buried one from the corner and Fan knocked down one from the wing to make it 8-2 with less than two minutes expired. Natalie Terwilliger got in on the fun with a triple of her own at the 7:29 mark and McInnis added another late in the period to give the Captains an 11-point edge, 24-13.

Having built a double-digit lead by the end of the first quarter, the pesky Captains defense continued to force Widener into difficult passing situations. Christopher Newport also drew three key charges in the opening half as they built a 14-point advantage, 46-32. Late in the second quarter, rookie Anaya Simmons took over with three straight layups, including a steal and a run out at the buzzer for the final tally of the half.

It was the start of the third quarter that all but put away Widener when Christopher Newport came out of the locker room on a 14-6 run that built the lead to 22 points, 60-38, with 6:29 remaining in the stanza. Junior Bailey Hodges scrambled at the end of the shot clock before burying a tough left-handed layup and then Ng grabbed a steal and found Fan on the run for a fast-break layup. Back-to-back three-pointers from Fan and Terwilliger built the lead to 20, 56-36, before the pair also converted layups to cap the run.

Widener tried to chip away but the Captains continuously had the answer. Another punctuation mark came with just 95 seconds left in the third quarter when rookie Sawyer Freeland was found with her feet set in the right corner. The freshman dialed up a three to become the fifth different Captain with a triple in the game, hitting a back-breaking three to teeter the lead back to 22, 69-47.

Christopher Newport grew the lead to a game-high 26 early in the fourth quarter on another terrific combination of plays from Fan and Simmons. First, Fan and Simmons played hot potato in a 2v1 for a layup, with the rookie finding her sophomore teammate for the bucket. Then, after Simmons grabbed a steal, she raced to the cup for her own basket to give the Captains a 79-53 lead. Widener closed the gap in the waning minutes of the fourth, but would get no closer than the final margin of 16 points. 

Four Christopher Newport players finished in double figures led by Fan's 18 points. She added a team-high tying four assists and one steal in the game. Simmons filled the sheet in just 15 minutes of action when she finished with 13 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and a blocked shot. McInnis added 11 points, all in the first half, and Terwilliger finished one rebound shy of a double-double with 10 points, 9 rebounds.

Christopher Newport will play in the NCAA Tournament Second Round for the 14th time including seven times in eight seasons under head coach Bill Broderick. Widener was the 25th different team the Captains defeated in NCAA Tournament play all-time.