March 10, 2007
Moon Township, PA - Junior forward Chinata Nesbit scored 15 of her game-high 28 points in the second half, including the go-ahead jumper with 2:44 to play, to lift the Robert Morris University women's basketball team to a 68-66 victory over Sacred Heart Saturday afternoon in the championship game of the 2007 Northeast Conference Tournament at the Charles L. Sewall Center. The victory helps RMU claim its third NEC tournament title, and first since 1991, as well as the program's first-ever berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Nesbit's jumper in the paint with 2:44 remaining was part of a 13-2 Colonial run that turned a six-point deficit into a 67-62 advantage with just 1:03 to go. Senior forward Sugeiry Monsac scored a layup with 1:31 to go to give Robert Morris a 65-62 cushion, and Nesbit's layup capped the run and gave RMU a 67-62 edge. The Pioneers closed their deficit to one, 67-66, with just 20 seconds left on the clock after a pair of free throws from Amanda Pape and a layup by Jasmine Walker, but senior guard Jenna Burkett hit the front end of a pair of free throws to give the Colonials a 68-66 edge with 13 seconds to go.
Sacred Heart head coach Ed Swanson called a timeout with 4.5 seconds left on the clock, but Pape's runner in the lane was strong, and the Colonials claimed the victory.
"Winning the NEC championship not only feels great, but it's special," RMU head coach Sal Buscaglia said. "We're turned around a program that hadn't won in 14 years, and we were able to recruit players and build a winner."
In the first half Robert Morris jumped out to a 21-8 lead in the first seven minutes of action and Monsac scored eight points and Nesbit added six points. The lead remained in double digits for the Colonials the rest of the half as RMU converted 53.3 percent (16-for-30) of its shots before halftime, while Sacred Heart shot just 43.5 percent (10-for-23) and committed 10 turnovers.
However, the Pioneers rallied after the break, opening the second half on a 13-1 run to close their deficit to just one, 39-38, with 16:05 to go. Lisa Moray started the surge with a three-pointer, while Pape scored six points. Robert Morris never fell behind in the early portion of the second half, surging to a 48-42 lead with 12:57 to play after a pair of free throws from senior guard Psyche Butler. Sacred Heart then used a 14-3 spurt to take a 60-54 lead with 5:39 remaining as Pape scored five points and Mary Rush and Kerri Burke each hit three-pointers.
Despite the run, Sacred heart converted just one field goal in the last 4:03 of action as RMU rallied behind Nesbit and Monsac. Thanks to a 28-point performance to go along with seven rebounds, four assists and a steal, Nesbit was named the 2007 NEC Tournament Most Valuable Player after averaging 25.0 points and 10.0 rebounds in the tournament. She was joined by Monsac from Robert Morris as a member of the 2007 All-NEC Tournament Team.
"Great players make great plays, and Chinata and Sugeiry came through for us when it counted most," Buscaglia said.
Sacred Heart was led by Pape, who scored 20 points, and Jasmine Walker, who finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Each garnered a spot on the All-NEC Tournament Team along with Katja Bavendam of St. Francis (N.Y.).
"RMU has great size and great strength, and I thought the key area that they did a good job tonight was rebounding," Swanson said.
With the victory, Robert Morris improves to 24-7 overall on the 2006-07 campaign, helping the club establish a new school record for wins in a season. Sacred Heart finishes its 2006-07 campaign with an overall record of 22-10.