EMU women open ODAC Tourney with win

The Eastern Mennonite women took over midway through the first half of their ODAC Quarterfinal game Thursday and came away with a 63-55 win over seven-seeded Roanoke.  The #2 Royals advance to the Semifinals and will play Saturday against #3 Guilford at 3:00pm.

The first 12 minutes of the game were relatively even before EMU’s interior presence took over.  The women powered to a 16-3 finish to the half, leading 39-27 at the break.

Eastern Mennonite shot 53% from the floor over the first 20 minutes, compared to 33% for RC.  Bianca Ygarza (Conestoga, PA/Penn Manor) hit all nine of her shots in the first and had 18 at halftime.  Kala Yoders (Myerstown, PA/ELCO) added another 10 points inside for the Royals.

The women kept on top in the second, pushing the edge to as many as 16 at 55-39 after a Shakeerah Sykes (Dumfries, VA/Forest Park) layup with 9:14 to play.  That’s when the Maroons made their comeback.

Roanoke ignited on a 12-2 run, including nine straight points, to slice the lead to 57-51 with 4:31 remaining.  As the tension rose, neither team scored for nearly two minutes.

Finally Yoders hit a tough jumper in the lane to end RC’s run and settle the Royals down.  The Maroons turned the ball over and Ygarza followed with a bucket, getting an assist from Yoders.

The 4-0 spurt put the lead back in double digits, 61-51, with 1:57 to go.  After the teams traded free throws, the final minute passed almost anti-cathartically.  But as the seconds ticked off, they sealed the 63-55 win for Eastern Mennonite.

“When things got tight, I thought that we executed well and got the ball where we needed to,” said EMU Coach Kevin Griffin.  “And as I told the women, it’s about surviving and moving on.  And we did that.”

Ygarza, an All-ODAC First Teamer, finished with a game high 22 points.  She also broke the EMU and ODAC Tournament record for field goal percentage, by going 10-for-10 from the floor.  The forward added seven rebounds.

Yoders, named All-ODAC Second Team on Wednesday, chipped in 15 points, and was one of four different Royals with three assists.  Alisa Brown (Dumfries, VA/Forest Park) also hit double figures with 10 points and had three assists.

Keyla Baltimore (Bristow, VA/Brentsville District) and Stephanie Rheinheimer (Manheim, PA/Lancaster Mennonite) each had three assists as well.  Baltimore pulled down a team high nine rebounds.  Rheinheimer had eight points and seven rebounds to help celebrate her All-ODAC Third Team honors.

All-ODAC Third Teamer Paxton Gwin (Buxton, NC/Cape Hatteras) led Roanoke with 18 points and nine rebounds.  Tatum McKee (Cornelius, NC/North Mecklenburg) finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and three blocks.

Eastern Mennonite had a 46% to 35% edge in shooting percentage.  The women also hindered the Maroons from outside, as they shot just 2-for-19 from three point range.  EMU was 4-for-14.

The Royals are now 22-3 as they await their Semifinal game on Saturday.

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