GRANTHAM, Pa. – Stevenson senior Sara Tarbert posted her NCAA Division III record 27th straight double-double with 21 points and 15 rebounds, but second-seeded Messiah College pulled away from the third-seeded Mustangs for a 78-55 win in the semifinals of the MAC Commonwealth Women's Basketball Championship Wednesday night at Brubaker Auditorium.
Messiah (24-2) advances to Saturday's championship game at top-seeded Albright, while Stevenson (17-9), which saw a four-game win streak snapped, now awaits word of a potential ECAC berth. The 16-team ECAC field will be announced on Monday, February 27.
Tarbert finished 8-8 at the free throw line and 6-16 from the floor en route to her 27th straight double-double, eclipsing the previous Division III record of 26 consecutive double-doubles. Sophomore Jonyae Curry finished with 11 points and six steals, while junior Imani Sanders matched her career high with 10 points. Freshman Hannah Crist totaled seven points, five rebounds and four assists, while junior Kaitlyn VanTash added six points.
Stevenson trailed 26-13 with 8:14 to go in the first half when the Mustangs went on a 10-0 run capped by a Tarbert basket to pull within three, 26-23, at the 4:32 mark of the second. The guests pulled within two, 30-28, with 2:13 left on a basket by VanTash, but Messiah went into the locker room with a 35-30 lead.
A pair of free throws by Crist capped an early 7-2 Stevenson spurt to start the second half, knotting the game 37-37 with 7:48 to go in the third. Stevenson extended the run to 14-4 and took a 44-39 lead on a steal and layup by Tarbert at the 3:57 mark of the third. Messiah held the guests scoreless the rest of the frame and scored the final nine points to take a 48-44 lead heading into the fourth.
Messiah scored the first six points of the fourth to extend its lead to 10, 54-44, with 7:33 left. A basket by Curry at the 7:09 mark stopped a nearly seven-minute scoring drought for Stevenson, but on the other end, the Falcons got a conventional three-point play to push the lead back to 11. That started a 7-0 run that gave the hosts a 16-point cushion with just over five minutes left, and Messiah maintained at least a 14 point lead the rest of the way.
The Mustangs took an early 7-4 lead following a three-pointer by Crist 4:06 into the game, but Messiah held Stevenson to just one field goal the rest of the quarter and used a 17-2 run to build a 21-9 lead after one quarter.
Messiah shot 50.9% for the game while limiting Stevenson to 34%. The Falcons took five more trips to the free throw line, going 21-27, while the Mustangs went 19-22 at the charity stripe. The hosts held a 33-31 rebound advantage and committed 18 turnovers to Stevenson's 21, creating a 30-17 lead in points off turnovers for Messiah.
Women's basketball coach Jackie Boswell discusses the MAC Commonwealth semifinal loss to Messiah Wednesday night.