CHARLESTON - Another upset for the Wheeling Jesuit Cardinals was not to be Thursday, as WJU couldn't fight past the aggressive defense of the No. 9 Glenville State Pioneers, dropping a Mountain East Conference quarterfinal 75-53.
The Pioneers forced the Cardinals into 22 turnovers, putting WJU under pressure with every possession. Glenville was able to finish those turnovers in transition, scoring 34 points in the paint.
The No. 8-seeded Cardinals finish the season with their best overall performance since 2006 with a record of 15-13 (11-10 MEC).
The WJU game plan was to slow the ball down against a Pioneer offense that has averaged 100 points per game this season, a plan they were able to execute in the first half holding GSC to just 31 at the break.
"I thought after the first half we were in pretty good shape," WJU coach Debbie Buff said. "We worked on slowing the ball down, but had too many turnovers. We usually take care of the ball well, but had a hard time with their defense tonight. I've got nothing but positive things to say about this team though. They've had a great year."
After a closely fought first half, the Pioneers caught fire and drained eight 3-pointers in the second half, and shot 44 percent from the field after the break and 46 percent over the night.
By comparison, the Cardinals shot just 39 percent from the field throughout the game and 30 percent from long range. Senior Taneka Lewis, who put in 14 points in her final game as a Cardinal, led WJU in the scoring column. Jaila Bryant added 10 points with an injured left hand, and was only two rebounds shy of a double-double. Taylor Lubinsky also scored in double figures putting up 10 points.
In a physical contest, the Cardinals and Pioneers battled for every possession. WJU tried to control the tempo of the game, a tactic that worked in their favor three weeks ago when the Cardinals defeated GSC at home in one of the biggest upsets of the year in the Mountain East. The loss gave the Pioneers added momentum coming into the game.
"I think we came in with a big chip on our shoulders," Glenville State's Ginny Mills said. "We lost a heartbreaker down there. We knew if we stuck to our game plan tonight we had it, but we had a chip on our shoulders for sure."
For the Cardinal seniors however, they will take this game as an indicator of just how far they have come as a program in a short time.
"We've really come together as a unit this year," Lewis said. "The friendships we've built on this team helped us on and off the court. Basketball will come to an end, but these friendships will stay with us."