UC's Kayla Dozier (15) challenges Seton Hill's Tiara Stossel as she drives to the basket.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In a three-minute spree midway through the second half, the University of Charleston seemed to conjure up the same magic that had ended Glenville's 20-game winning streak 48 hours earlier.The Golden Eagles sank four consecutive shots to produce 11 points and cut Seton Hill's 18-point lead to seven, suggesting that UC's improbable tournament run might last another day.But during a subsequent timeout, Seton Hill coach Ferne Labati looked into her players' eyes and saw conviction.From there, Labati relaxed and the Griffins handled things quite nicely and, though UC again cut the deficit to seven with three minutes left, Seton Hill collected a 61-49 victory in a West Virginia Conference women's semifinal Friday afternoon at the Charleston Civic Center. A crowd of about 500 attended.
The No. 5 Griffins (19-12) will oppose No. 3 Fairmont State in the title game at 1:07 p.m. today. At age 66, Labati says she has no plans for retirement, especially in heady times like these. Her team is seeking a WVC title and an NCAA Division II tournament bid, and on Friday afternoon her team responded to the UC challenge. "We had to make stops,'' said Labati, a former University of Miami coach, "and the look in our players' eyes showed that we were going to get a stop. During a timeout, you could look at them and you could tell.''The Greensburg, Pa., school scored the next six points - Katie Gattuso's free throw, Tiara Stossel's basket and Paige Alviani's 3-pointer - for 49-36 lead with 5:46 left. UC responded on Jessi Cowden's five straight points and Nichole Perry's 3-pointer but was never closer than seven down the stretch.Another thing that may extend Labati's career is her rapport with the players. "I've been on a lot of teams, and I've never had a coach that cares more about her players than she does,'' said Gattuso, a junior from Pittsburgh. "And I could cry about it. So I know it makes a difference for us to play for her.''The No. 9 Golden Eagles (16-13), who finished 12-15 last year, lost four of their final six regular-season games this season, including two by 24-point margins, and needed a victory at No. 8 Pitt Johnstown on Monday simply to reach the Civic Center. Once there, they stunned No. 1 Glenville, the No. 12 team in Division II.Beating the Pioneers lifted the Golden Eagles to a season high, but there were no lingering aftereffects, said UC coach Adam Collins."I just think we were nervous to start,'' said Collins. "I don't think it had anything to do with coming down from the Glenville game. We didn't have very many people who had been in this situation before. I don't think it was a letdown from Glenville. Our girls did a fantastic job of not listening to the hype that everyone was trying to give them.''The Griffins, Collins said, stymied the UC transition game, forcing the Golden Eagles into an uncomfortable half-court offense."We were never able to get any easy baskets except when we were in transition,'' he said. "When we were in a half-court situation, we never seemed to be able to score. That's not our game; half-court is not our game, and they did a good job of keeping us in it. We forced 20 turnovers; we just didn't make enough shots. Twenty-seven percent from the field will do you in every time.''
Collins, a Charleston (S.C.) Southern graduate, is a former Texas-Permian Basin coach who won Heartland Conference coach of the year honors. His first year at UC brought some satisfying moments, he said. "We're 16-13 when most people thought we would win five games,'' he said. "We played in the semifinals. We're going home on the same day that West Liberty is going home. We knocked off the No. 12 team in the country with 20 consecutive victories.''Alviani, the WVC's top 3-point shooter with a 42.8 percent accuracy, hit 3 of 4 3-pointers and 7 of 11 shots overall to lead the Griffins with 19 points. Gattuso, a first-team All-WVC choice, added 18 points and 15 rebounds.Cowden led UC with 14 points on 4-of-8 3-point shooting and LeAnne Ross came off the bench to score 13. UC shot 27.3 percent.Reach Mike Whiteford at email@example.com.