|Kathy Gruzynski and the second-seeded Crusaders couldn't keep Lauren Schober and Bucknell off their backs. (Greg M. Cooper/Associated Press)|
WORCESTER - Dejected Holy Cross players stayed in their locker room long enough to not have to watch Bucknell cut down the nets, hoist the trophy, and celebrate the Patriot League championship last night at the Hart Center.
The Bison earned the right to revel by downing HC, 57-45.
The Crusaders, most of them misty-eyed, eventually emerged from behind the door, decorated with a poster that simply read "Team," and plodded out to the gym to see their families and friends. Seniors Laura Aloisi and Ashley McLaughlin, who played in their final game, were the last to come out.
"It was just really hard taking the uniform off for the last time," said an emotional Aloisi.
Aloisi and McLaughlin, who helped Holy Cross to 68 wins over the last four seasons, were seeking to finish their careers with a third PL tourney title. With a tremendous defensive performance, Bucknell didn't let it happen.
The Bison (16-15) held the Crusaders to 29 percent shooting. The talented guard trio of Aloisi and sophomores Briana McFadden and Bethany O'Dell were a combined 7 for 30 for 19 points. And with senior all-league center Hope Foster monitoring things inside, the Crusaders frontcourt players didn't fare much better.
"They beat us to our spots and their presence was always there," said freshman forward Alyssa May, who led the Crusaders with 11 points.
The second-seeded and defending champion Crusaders, playing in the Patriot League final for the 15th time, are 11-2 in championship games at home. Both losses have been to Bucknell, which also won the championship in 2002. HC finished 19-13.
The Bison are the first No. 5 seed to win the Patriot title. They earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and will find out their first-round opponent Monday. The Patriot League champion was projected as a No. 16 seed facing Tennessee in brackets this week on espn.com and collegerpi.com. "They'll represent us well," HC coach Bill Gibbons said. "They're a terrific team."
Junior guard Amanda Brown led Bucknell with 14 points and senior guard Kesha Champion, the tournament MVP, added 13, including the 1,000th of her career.