HVWAC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME STATISTICS
Top-seeded Mount Saint Vincent opened up a 14-point lead early in the second half and survived a furious rally by Saint Elizabeth down the stretch to capture the HVWAC Basketball Tournament, 59-54 on Sunday at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. Freshman Lauren Percodani earned Tournament MVP honors after averaging 13.5 points, six assists, four rebounds, and 2.5 steals per game during the tournament while shooting an incredible 68% from the floor.
The day began well enough for Mount Saint Vincent, as the Dolphins used a 9-0 run to turn a 7-7 game into a 16-7 lead halfway through the first half. The lead extended as far as 27-13 with 4:44 to play in the opening half, but a buzzer-beating lay-up by Eagle junior Jamese Baker (Elizabeth, NJ/Elizabeth HS) cut the deficit to 11 points as Mount Saint Vincent led 32-21 at halftime. Baker's heroic last-second effort set the tone for what would become a memorable second half.
Two minutes into the second half, the edge was back to 14 points, and it appeared as if the Dolphins would cruise to the HVWAC tournament title the same way they did the regular season crown, after winning all five conference games by an average margin of 31.25 points per game, including a 70-53 win over CSE on Jan. 13. However, all hopes of an easy run to the championship ended quickly as Saint Elizabeth refused to go down quietly, and Mount Saint Vincent was left on their heels for the rest of the game. An 11-2 Eagle run was capped by a Jessica Dixon (Linden, NJ/Linden HS) lay-up that made it 46-45 Mount Saint Vincent with 8:09 to play. Mount Saint Vincent extended the lead back to 52-47 with 5:11 to play, but Saint Elizabeth scored the next five points to tie the score for the first time after a Bridget Sweeney (Roselle, NJ/Roselle Catholic) jumper made it 52-52 with 3:30 remaining in the game. And when it seemed like the Eagles were going to pull off one of the biggest upsets in the history of their program, the vaunted Mount Saint Vincent freshman class took over and led the Dolphins to a championship.
With the score tied, Heesemann hit a lay-up with 3:00 left in the game to break the tie, and 30 seconds later she made it a 56-52 lead after converting a jump shot after a CSE turnover. A lay-up by Mary Kate Lanzo (Caldwell, NJ/Montclair Kimberly) made it 56-54 with 1:06 to play, setting up a wild final minute. With the Dolphins clinging to the lead, a CSE foul with seven seconds remaining in the game put Dolphin freshman Percodani at the free throw line. Percodani converted the first attempt, but missed the second one, however, Heesemann grabbed the rebound to give the Mount the ball. As the time wound down, freshman Karissa Koerner (Bay Shore, NY/Brentwood HS) was fouled, and she converted both free throws with one second to play to give the Mount the five-point win.
Heesemann was outstanding, finishing with 15 points and 11 rebounds, and eight of her points and seven of her rebounds came during the second half of play. But it was Percodani's composure under pressure that kept the Mount from losing their grip on the game as she earned Tournament MVP honors. The rookie point guard scored 14 points (on 4 for 6 shooting) and added five rebounds and six assists during an exceptional all-around game. Percodani's MVP weekend came after she averaged 13.5 points, six assists, four rebounds, and 2.5 steals per game and led the Mount to both wins. She shot an incredible 68% from the floor, and committed only six turnovers all weekend long despite enormous pressure, particularly on Sunday.
Koerner was also outstanding on Sunday as she followed up a 19-point performance on Saturday evening with a 13-point effort on Sunday. Overall, Mount Saint Vincent suffered one of their worst shooting games of the year, converting only 29% of their field goal attempts, while CSE shot 44% from the floor, including a 53% effort during the final 20 minutes. However, Mount Saint Vincent grabbed 43 rebounds while CSE grabbed 39, and the Dolphins forced 32 Eagle turnovers while committing only 23, giving the Mount a 24-19 edge in points off turnovers to give them an advantage to claim the HVWAC Tournament Championship.
For Saint Elizabeth, who lost to both St. Joseph's and Mount Saint Vincent by more than 30 points per game a year ago, sophomore Sarah Kozlowski (Manalapan, NJ/Manalapan HS) notched a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Dixon registered a game-high eight assists, while Baker and Sweeney had big games, scoring 10 and 14 points, respectively.
Between both HVWAC Finalists, only one senior will graduate meaning a strong possibility of a championship rematch during the 2007-08 campaign.