Nearing the end of a storybook season, sophomore forward Amanda Baker hasn't taken much time to appreciate the record-setting success of her Medaille women's basketball team.
But Baker certainly appreciates where her team is now -- in the championship game of the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference tournament with an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tourney on the line.
The team's franchise player gave an aggressive performance Friday night, scoring 24 points with 14 rebounds to pace the Lady Mavericks to a 62-54 win over Penn State-Behrend in front of 392 at the Sullivan Center.
Medaille, the tournament's top seed and host, will face Pitt-Greensburg (which beat Frostburg State, 66-62) in the title game at 3 p.m. today in the Sullivan Center.
With the win, the Lady Mavs improved to 24-1 overall -- their only loss a five-point decision to Buffalo State -- setting the school record for most wins in a season.
"We all know where we stand, but I don't think our record really reflects anything," Baker said. "We're just taking each day as it comes and hoping we win."
Baker does more than just hope her team will win -- she works at it. In the go-to player role during the tight semifinal game with Behrend, it was Baker who would get the loose ball, come up with a rebound or pound the ball in the paint to create a momentum-changing play.
"When it comes down to it, I like to help out my team as much as I can," said Baker, who had nine offensive rebounds. "I look for any way possible to get open or go after a loose ball or get a rebound."
And that's exactly what the Lady Mavs as a team have done. They relentlessly attack on defense, using quick and effective zone pressure to change the pace of the game and create turnovers.
Medaille jumped to an 11-2 lead thanks in large part to its full-court press. But Behrend (17-10, 12-6 AMCC) hung around as Medaille struggled to convert turnovers into points. In the end, the Lady Mavs scored just 16 points off 19 Behrend turnovers.
"We were nervous. We're so young and that's part of it," third-year Medaille coach Pete Lonergan said. "Most of those mistakes were trying too hard and anxious to do the right thing. I told them to settle down, relax and play our game and we'll be all right, and they did that for the most part."
Behrend tied the game in the second half when Brittany Mays stole a pass at midcourt and went in for a layup. With the score, 31-31, with just under 16 minutes to play, Medaille switched its defense and went on a 12-0 run to take control of the game.
"We changed to our 1-3-1 zone, and that really hurt them," Lonergan said. "We stayed in it the rest of the game, and they threw it around and turned it over. And it also saves us having to full-court press. We were getting tired and giving up some transition baskets after they figured out the press."
Medaille took care of the basketball, committing just nine turnovers. The Lady Mavs also controlled the low post, holding a 41-36 rebounding advantage and outscoring Behrend in the paint, 44-18.
Sophomore Marisa Clark, Medaille's second-leading scorer, went just 3 for 20 from the field but managed 10 points, eight assists and eight rebounds. Freshman Brenlyn Campbell (Lew-Port) added 10 points off the bench.