Friday, March 28, 2003

NKU women reach Division II final

Snardon disrupts pass for semifinal victory

By Matt Humphrey
Special to the Enquirer

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. - How Northern Kentucky upset the No. 1 women's basketball team in the NCAA Division II Tournament Thursday night may still be a mystery to the Norse.

But make no mistake. It's a mystery Northern Kentucky is willing to sit around and ponder for days to come.

Despite shooting 27 percent and suffering from a distinct disadvantage in the paint, the Norse toppled California (Pa.) 45-43 and earned a berth in the national championship game at St. Joseph Civic Arena. Northern Kentucky (25-7) will meet South Dakota State (31-3) at 6 p.m. Saturday.

"Fortunately we won," said Northern Kentucky coach Nancy Winstel, whose Norse are one win from their second Division II title in four years. "It went right down to 1.6 (seconds) and their ball. We're fortunate we're up."

Winstel understates the drama.

California (33-2) inbounded the ball beneath Northern Kentucky's basket with 1.1 seconds left and had a passing lane open to junior Sameera Philyaw in the key. But Norse freshman Sharell Snardon knocked the pass away from Philyaw's hands and time expired.

After Snardon disrupted the pass, she ran in stride toward the Northern Kentucky bench where she was mobbed by her teammates.

She never anticipated such a wacky finish.

"I wasn't anticipating anything," she said. "Basically, I was just looking around. I didn't know what to do. I was so nervous, because 1.1 seconds is a lot of time to do a lot of things. I was like, `Please, let me do something to help us out,' but I wasn't anticipating anything."

The entire game transpired in a manner Northern Kentucky (26-7) never anticipated. The Vulcans held the No. 2 shooting team in Division II to 15-of-55 shooting from the field and 3-of-17 from 3-point range.

"They were denying me pretty hard on the wing," said Norse senior Bridget Flanagan, who scored eight points on 3-of-13 shooting. "I was just looking to play good defense and rebounding the ball."

That didn't come easy to Northern Kentucky, either. Six-foot-9 California senior Suzie Gyarfas clogged up the paint and disrupted the inside-outside game that helped the Norse beat Washburn in Wednesday's semifinals.

Gyarfas scored only five points, but she had nine rebounds, six blocks and total command of the paint. She held Northern Kentucky's leading scorer, Amy Mobley, to eight points, while Snardon struggled to score a team-high 11.

"I told my teammates that if their man beats them, step out of the way and let me at it," said Gyarfas, a native Hungarian. "I just wish I'd have more chances like that."

But not even Gyarfas solved an NKU defense that's turning into the surprise of the tournament. The Vulcans hit just 33 percent from the floor with 21 turnovers, 11 more than NKU.

The Norse limited Becky Siembak, the Division II Player of the Year, to 14 points and forced six Siembak turnovers.

They also limited the Vulcans to one field goal in the final 10 minutes, which helped them overcome their own inability to shoot consistently.

"We're not really good individually defensively, maybe," Winstel said, "but our team defense is what has gotten us here."

NKU (26-7)--Myers 2-6 0-1 4, Mobley 2-9 3-4 8, Polosky 2-11 6-7 10, Burrows 0-2 0-2 0, Flanagan 3-13 0-0 8, Sterling 0-1 0-0 0, Snardon 4-9 3-5 11, Philips 0-1 0-0 0, Brock 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 15-55 12-19 45.

CALIFORNIA (PA.) (33-2)--McKinney 5-13 0-0 10, Siembak 6-12 2-2 14, Gyarfas2-4 1-1 5, Hamilton 0-4 1-2 1, Storck 4-11 0-0 9, Morrison 1-2 0-0 2, Gottuso 0-1 1-2 1, Philyaw 0-4 1-2 1, Dillon 0-3 0-0 0, Cornish 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-54 6-9 43.

Halftime: Northern Kentucky 24-21. 3-point goals: Northern Kentucky 3-17 (Mobley 1-4, Polosky 0-2, Burrows 0-1, Flanagan 2-10), California 1-5 (Hamilton 0-2, Storck 1-2, Dillon 0-1). Rebounds: Northern Kentucky 35 (Snardon 6), California 44 (Gyarfas 9). Assists: Northern Kentucky 10 (Polosky 3), California 13 (Storck 5).

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