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Glenville State Tops Charleston For MEC Title

The Free Press WV

Junior guard/forward Emily Stoller caught fire in the fourth quarter connecting on three consecutive 3-point field goals and a pair of free throws to help top-seeded and 18th-ranked Glenville State break open a tight game with second-seeded University of Charleston and claim a 78-69 victory in the championship game of the Mountain East Conference Basketball Tournament Sunday afternoon at WesBanco Arena.

Stoller, who scored 11 of her 21 points in a 2:24 span late in the fourth against Charleston’s 2-3 zone, which earlier in the second half had given the Pioneers some fits on offense, helped Glenville go from being up four to up nine with just 31 seconds remaining.

“It’s all heart,” Stoller said. “I’ve played the game since fourth grade and it all goes back to having heart for the game and a desire to win. You’ve gotta put all of your effort out there.

“I wanted those shots believe me. I was calling for it.”

The win, which was the 20th in a row for the Pioneers, improved Glenville State to 29-2 on the year. The victory also gave Glenville, which was ranked second this week in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional Rankings, the automatic bid to the NCAA Division II National Tournament. The 64-team bracket for that tournament will be announced at 10 p.m. Sunday evening.

“Charleston is a phenomenal team,” GSC coach Kim Stephens said. “They’re one of the best teams we have faced and once of the best Mountain East teams I have seen. It’s hard to beat three times. It’s really hard to beat great teams three times. They gave us a game. We knew it was going to be a game.

“I was really proud of our effort down the stretch. We had a cold spell, got a little nervous and that’s youth and the inexperience of playing with one another. We stepped up, though, made big plays like we have all year and I’m incredibly proud of that.”

The loss snapped a seven-game winning streak for Charleston which fell to 25-6. The Golden Eagles were ranked seventh in the latest Atlantic Regional Rankings and will learn their fate for the national tournament Sunday night.

“First of all I’m just crushed for the players in the locker room,” UC coach Becky Burke said. “There’s no question we pride ourselves on playing really hard, defending, following a game plan and executing what we ask them to do. I thought we sold out today doing that.

“We made adjustments at halftime, our girls bought in and executed it to perfection. We guarded, we sat down, did things we needed to do and to be quite frank it gave them fits. I thought we had them confused and rattled for a long portion of that game.

“We went to a 2-3 zone and we’ve probably played about five possessions of zone all year. To do it like we did today for 20 minutes is a credit to our players. We did have a couple of mental breakdowns late, sucking in a little too far on the weak side and Stoller hit some big threes for them. There might be a couple of their kids you can lose, but Emily Stoller’s not one of them. The kid is a baller. She’s fun to watch and she made some big shots in big moments for them. Ty Armstrong was huge for them too. Those two made 10 threes between the two of them.”

Glenville State never trailed in the contest. Junior guard Ty Armstrong and freshman guard Re’Shawna Stone, who were both all-tournament selections, set the tone early for the Pioneers combining for 23 of their team’s 43 first-half points as GSC opened a 43-33 lead at the half.

“I had confidence in my shot,” said Armstrong, who finished with a team-high 23 points. “Coach is always telling me ‘Shoot the ball. Shoot the ball.‘ I had confidence in my shot so I just started shooting. I was seeing it go in so I just kept shooting.”

Stone, who added 17 points, 15 of which came in the first 20 minutes, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. She says Sunday it was important against UC for Glenville to take control early.

“I knew we had to throw the first punch because obviously they were going to come back with a run,” Stone, who averaged 19.7 points in GSC’s three tournament wins, said. “We just had to come out strong first.”

Early in the third quarter Glenville extended its lead to 15 at 50-35, but UC’s aggressive zone defense began causing the Pioneers problems and the Golden Eagles clawed their way back into contention. Led by senior guard Raziyah Farrington and senior forward Dionna Sanders Charleston outscored Glenville 18-7 in the final 7:21 of the third quarter and 8-5 in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter to cut the Pioneers lead to 62-61.

“Changing up our defense rattled them a little and we got a lot of stops and Brooklyn (Pannell) had two big steals during that stretch so that gave us momentum for our offense to start flowing,” Farrington, an all-tournament selection who set a MEC title game record with 28 points, said. “We also rebounded well out of our 2-3 zone and that was big for us to get those rebounds.”

Farrington scored 14 points in each half for UC and also grabbed seven rebounds and handed out four assists.

“I’m so glad she’s a senior,” Stephens said with a laugh. “She’s one of the best players I’ve ever seen at this level. What’s remarkable about her is she’s so in control. She doesn’t throw up anything wild, get out of control or take bad shots. She’s smooth and she can score anytime she wants.”

Sanders, who had just four points in Charleston’s first two tournament games, exploded for 25 points and 14 rebounds in the title contest. Her 14 rebounds were an MEC championship game record.

“I just knew I had to be aggressive and rebound for us to have a chance,” Sanders said. “I was just doing my job.”

When Charleston cut the Pioneers’ lead to one GSC’s Abby Stoller nailed a corner 3-pointer to halt the Golden Eagles’ surge with 4:10 to play. Then her sister, Emily Stoller, took over and helped the Pioneers claim their second straight MEC Tournament title and the program’s third overall.

Joining Stone, Armstrong and Farrington on the eight-member all-tournament team were UC’s Brooklyn Pannell, West Liberty’s Morgan Brunner and Marissa Brown, Concord’s Andreanna Pool and Shepherd’s Kayla Tibbs.

Pannell claimed the Heart and Hustle Award for the tournament, while Brunner received honors for having the tournament’s highest scoring average (26.5).

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