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Wheeling University Erases 17-Point Deficit to Defeat Concord in MEC Quarterfinal

Cards will face Charleston next

Photo by Kyle Lutz Wheeling University’s Kelsi Chapman dials up a shot during Thursday’s MEC quarterfinal win inside WesBanco Arena.

WHEELING — With 6:53 left in the fourth quarter, the Wheeling women’s basketball team were in a 60-43 hole against Concord. Calling a timeout, the Cardinals got some poignant, yet critical words from their senior captain Kelsi Chapman.

The Magnolia graduate’s teammates received her message loud and clear as Wheeling erased its 17-point deficit while Lilly Ritz hit 3-pointer with 8.9 seconds left to force overtime where it secured a victory over the Mountain Lions, 77-72 in a Mountain East Conference Tournament quarterfinal matchup Thursday night at WesBanco Arena.

The Cardinals will face Charleston in the semifinals Saturday with an 11 a.m. tipoff.

“That was helpful. When the back is against the wall, sometimes teams lash out and we’re no different,” Wheeling coach Mike Llanas said. “(Thursday) was a huge growth day for our team and the program. Kelsi’s words were just what we needed and sometimes those little things matter.”

It was not only Chapman’s words that sparked the Cardinals, it was also her actions. With 5:41 left in regulation, Chapman drilled 3-pointer to stop a Cardinals’ scoring drought.

After a Maggie Guynn bucket with 4:36 left, the Cardinals went on a 13-0 run to make it a single possession game. Chapman hit a shot from behind the arc to cut the Cardinals’ deficit to single digits.

“She struggled from the field in the first half as our guards did,” Llanas said of Chapman. “Four years at Wheeling and this was the first time that she has an opportunity on this stage to use her words in a critical time, but also in her actions. I couldn’t be prouder of her. Her mom and dad were in the stands. It takes everyone,but, it nice to have senior leadership step up with not only words, with action. Huge, big time hit and gets that momentum going.”

The run was capped by a Shanley Woods 3-pointer that put the score at 64-62 with 53.6 seconds to play.

On the ensuing Concord possession, the Wheeling defense stepped up big and forced a 10-second violation.

However, Riley Fitzwater came up with a crucial block for the Mountain Lions as the Cardinals tried to tie it after taking over.

Guynn went to the free throw line and made 1 of 2 to keep it a three-point game with 17.5 seconds remaining. That’s when Ritz, who missed her first two 3-point attempts, made her move. With 8.9 seconds remaining, she had an open look from long range and let the ball go. As the ball tickled the twine, the Cardinal faithful erupted.

“Our rally was really led by Kelsi,” Ritz said. “She really stepped up not only with her words, but with her play. That’s what really brought us back. We stayed disciplined and stayed in the game. That 3, I’m not going to lie, I shot it and had an ‘Oh crap’ moment and it went it. Then I had another ‘Oh crap moment.’ I wish I could tell you the reasoning behind it was, I guess I was open, shot it and it went in. I’m happy about that.”

Ritz paced the Cardinals with a game-high 28 points and 25 rebounds.

With 2:34 left in the extra period, a bucket by her gave the Cardinals their first lead since the second quarter.

“On a big stage and high pressure, she is the cornerstone,” Llanas said. “But with that cornerstone, there are other stones whether they’re small or big that surround that. She understand that and our kids are starting to buy in and understand that every possession matters and every shot matters.”

With the score knotted at 70-70, a pair of Woods free throws put Wheeling up for good.

Lauren Calhoun supplied 14 points for the Cardinals while Woods netted 12. Chapman totaled nine points.

For the Mountain Lions, Fitzwater and Guynn had 14 points while Leely Lundy chipped in 12.

Concord, though, struggled from the free throw line going 9 of 21.

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