The seeding and common opponents suggested that the Mountaineers opening round contest with the Pomeroys of St. Mary of the Woods College would be a mismatch. But if you looked deeper, there was much for the number three seeded Blue Crew with which to be concerned.
The Pomeroys ranked first in several USCAA Division I categories including points, field goals, 3-pointers, assists and steals. Add to that, the fact that SWMC has 12 players that average double-digit minutes played – the Mountaineers were in for a battle.
The Pomeroys roared out of the gates jumping out to a near instantaneous 9-0 lead as they drained their first four shots and converted three BC turnovers. A Jaime Roberts layup broke the scoring drought, but BC would go down as many as 11 points as the SMWC full-court press and trapping half-court defense gave them fits.
The Mountaineers didn't panic and went on a run over their own led by Johnesha Warren and Anna Loveless that would tie the game 19-19 at the half way point of the first half. SMWC came out of a media timeout gunning, hitting consecutive three pointers to spark another 9-0 run. BC wasn't doing itself any favors as they were ice cold from long distance (0-5 in the half) and the charity strip where they were just 3-13.
Berea finally found their mark late in the first half as they started taking advantage of their athleticism and size and began attacking the paint. Alexus Calhoun was dominate on the glass pulling down a game high 10 first half rebounds. The tactical adjustment paid dividends as Berea College took a slim 45-43 lead into the half.
The second half started off with both teams playing tremendous floor defense that led to neither scoring in the first three and a half minutes of the second stanza before the Pomeroys converted a layup to tie the score 45-45. But BC had found the SMWC Achilles heel and they exploited it to perfection.
Time after time Berea College would drive through the trapping defense to score in the paint or force a foul. Warren was especially deadly at this tactic. SMWC would pit one of their best players and leading scorers on Warren and paid a hefty price when Sierra Lopez, the game's leading scorer with 18 points committed her fifth personal foul with over five minutes remaining. Warren would make both free throws and crush the Pomeroys upset hopes.
With Lopez out, the Mountaineers were able to push their lead out to as many as 10 points. SMWC was forced to begin fouling, hope for a miss and then launch a 3-pointer. They were successful to a degree and cut the lead down to as few as four points when the buzzer sounded with the scoreboard showing Berea College 78 and St. Mary of the Woods 74.
The Mountaineers were led, again, by Warren. The newly minted First Team All-American played all 40 minutes, scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked four shots. Honorable Mention All-Americans Calhoun and Adriana Williams made their presence felt; with Calhoun dominating the low-post by scoring 18 points, ribbing down a season high 22 rebounds, and blocking four shots. Williams who didn't have the best day offensively stepped up her rebounding grabbing 10 and dishing out a team high eight assists. Roberts was the third Mountaineer in double-figures as she scored 16 going 6-18 from the field, and 4-6 from the free-throw line.
Berea will now advance to the USCAA Division I Final Four. They will play the winner of the Iowa Wesleyan College (#2 seed) and Alfred State College (#7 seed) on Friday at 1:00 pm in the Main Arena on the campus of Penn-State Fayette.