LEWISTON -- Entering this season, Niagara's women's basketball team was in search of a leader.
They found one in Shaunna Ambrose.
The senior guard on Monday night demonstrated why she's leading the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in scoring this season. Ambrose did what she normally does -- hit three-pointers, drive to the basket and get to the free throw line. It was her 27 points that led the Purple Eagles to a 62-59 win over archrival Canisius.
The 403 spectators at the Gallagher Center watched Niagara (11-8, 3-5 MAAC) snap a six-game losing streak to Canisius.
Ambrose, who is averaging 16.6 points per game, went 6 for 19 from the field but hit 11 of her 13 free throws.
"They were giving me open shots," Ambrose said. "They weren't up in my face like other teams this year have been. With [Jessie] Lamparski guarding me, I was able to post up in the paint, too."
But even more than her ability to create her own offense, Ambrose has brought some much-needed leadership and an air of confidence to the team.
"It's like night and day from last year," Niagara coach Bill Agronin said of Ambrose's play. "She's a leader and maybe more important than being a leader, she plays under control. The team feeds off Shaunna. . . . If we're down three, Shaunna will find a way to get a basket or get to the foul line."
Canisius took a 33-28 halftime lead and went up by as many as nine, 38-29, on a layup by Ellie Radke, three minutes into the second half. But the Golden Griffins were plagued by 24 turnovers, which Niagara turned into 26 points.
Then, it all came down to the final three minutes.
With 2:55 left to play, Canisius' Abby Radunske hit one of two free throws for a 57-57 tie.
Ambrose then hit one of two free throws to put Niagara up, 58-57, with 1:12 left.
Canisius rushed its ensuing possession, committing another turnover. Ambrose in turn launched a three-pointer that missed, but the Griffs faltered on the boards, throwing the rebound out of bounds and giving Niagara the ball back with the lead, a fresh shot clock and 27 seconds to play.
Michelle Manfredi and Ambrose knocked down free throws while a three-pointer by Canisius' Amanda Cavo at the buzzer never caught iron.
"The last three or four minutes, we didn't execute cleanly at all and then at the end of the game, they step up and get that offensive rebound," Canisius coach Terry Zeh said. "That's a big mental lapse on our part when we chose not to box out."
For Canisius (11-8, 3-5), Megan Lyte had 17 points and 11 rebounds while Radunske and Lamparski each added 12.