GETTYSBURG, Pa. –
Led by Most Valuable Player Emily Gibbons
(Annapolis, Md./Severn School), Gettysburg College claimed its second Centennial Conference championship by grinding out a hard-fought 44-35 victory over Haverford College in front of a raucous and supportive crowd inside Bream Gym Saturday night.
Gettysburg (25-2), which set the program record for victories in a season, scored the game's final nine points to get by Haverford (21-6) and earn the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championship. It was the program's second Centennial crown and first since winning it front of the home crowd in 2013.
"This is the coolest thing I've ever felt," said Gibbons, who posted her 10th double-double of the season (11 points, 12 rebounds). "Coming in as a freshman I always dreamed of hosting the conference championships and having the ability to host in front of a huge crowd and do it with this team is really something special."
Haverford, which was looking for its second conference title as well, tied the game at 35-all with 5:06 remaining. Gettysburg received two crucial plays down the stretch. Sophomore Ashley Gehrin
(Chester, N.J./West Morris Mendham) swished a three-pointer from the wing with 2:04 remaining and senior Kendra Meredith
(Boyds, Md./Northwest) picked up a steal and lay-up to make it a five-point lead with only 55 ticks on the clock.
"It came down to big players making big plays," said Head Coach Nate Davis
, who wins his first Centennial title at Gettysburg's helm. "Those two big plays at the end were significant, but there were so many significant plays throughout the game that ultimately made the difference."
Gehrin scored a dozen points and Meredith finished with six points, nine rebounds, three assists, and four steals. The Bullets also received eight points and four rebounds from freshman Meredith Brown
(Landisburg, Pa./West Perry) off the bench.
Sierra Berkel led the Fords with 11 points and seven rebounds. Samantha Wetzel posted five points, seven boards, and four blocks, while Macy Goldbach turned in eight points.
After splitting the regular season series, Gettysburg came out with a fire to match Haverford, which was coming off a victory over defending champion Muhlenberg College in the semifinals. Gibbons came out and scored the first nine points of the game.
"We knew Haverford was going to come out strong like they always do," said Gibbons. "They battle with us every game and we just wanted to match their intensity coming into this game."
The Fords did not back down and answered right back with six-straight points, beginning a see-saw battle that would last throughout the game. A pair of free throws by Dorshimer gave the hosts a 17-11 edge after one quarter.
The offense slowed in the second period as the two teams combined for just four field goals and 15 total points. Brown helped the Bullets maintain the upper-hand, scoring five consecutive points before a pair of free throws by Dorshimer made it a nine-point advantage (24-15) late in the half. Gettysburg went into the locker room leading 25-18.
"We knew we were going to have to endure and play great defense," said Davis. "If we didn't play great defense tonight we're not in the game. It's that kind of game with two defensive teams battling it out and we were fortunate enough to make the plays at the end of the game that separated us at the end of the day."
Despite going down by nine at the start of the second half, Haverford sliced the margin down to two (29-27) on a three-pointer by Macy Goldbach with 3:27 to go in the third quarter. The Fords trailed by just four (33-29) entering the final period.
Gettysburg turned in one of its best defensive displays of the season in the fourth quarter, holding Haverford to just six points on 3-of-10 shooting. Despite the lockdown, the Fords managed to tie the game as Wetzel canned a deep three with the shot clock expiring and Goldbach followed up with another trey at 5:06.
Each team had several opportunities to take the lead, but ultimately it came down to Gehrin who drilled a three-pointer off a pass from Dorshimer following some nice ball movement by the Bullets. Haverford forced a tough shot on Gettysburg's next possession and was poised to tie the game, but Meredith cleanly poked the ball away from Katie Cook and finished the lay-in to thundering applause from the crowd.
"The last play I felt was just right," Meredith said about her defensive stop. "The time was winding down and I felt like I had to get this and we have to do this tonight."
Gettysburg forced contested shots on each of Haverford's final four shots, while Gehrin and Meredith combined for four free throws in the final 31 seconds to seal the win.
The crowd remained after the game to celebrate the victory and watch the Bullets cut down the nets on each end of the Bream Gym court.
"The fans today were great," Gibbons said. "They really kept us in it. I can't give enough thanks to them."
Gettysburg held Haverford to its worst shooting performance of the season. The Fords hit just 13-of-55 (23.6 percent) field goals and only 6-of-24 (25 percent) three-pointers. The Bullets also won the battle on the glass 42-39.
The NCAA Division III Championship selection show is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 26, at 2:30 p.m. on NCAA.com
. Gettysburg will make its sixth appearance in the "Big Dance" and first since 2013.