By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Widener women’s basketball team is still alive in the Division III NCAA Tournament. After two wins last weekend, the Pride are in the ‘Sweet 16’ for the first time in program history and next up is a familiar foe. On Friday night, Widener will take on Commonwealth Conference foe Messiah up in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Widener (23-5) opened the tournament with a 56-52 win on Friday over FDU-Florham night and then they pulled one out on Saturday, getting a basket from senior forward Vanessa Hejnas off a pass from another senior Lil Carney with 2.9 seconds left to win 57-56 over Catholic University. That final score represented the only time Widener had the lead the entire game.
“We’ve been in that situation and I believe in seniors,” Widener head coach Alisa Kintner tells KYW Newsradio. “Seniors are special at this time of year and they are just carrying this team at this point.”
Another key senior for Widener is guard Kate Dellinger. She is tied for the team lead in scoring (11.9 points/game) and tops the squad in rebounding (9.1/game). She also was recently named a finalist for the Jostens Trophy, given to the most outstanding men’s and women’s Division III basketball players of the year.
“It’s just an incredible feeling to still be playing basketball in March and during spring break,” Dellinger tells KYW Newsradio. “That’s something that we’ve never done before and something that we’ve always looked forward to. So now that its happening, we’re just trying to take advantage of every minute.”
Widener and Messiah split their two regular season match-ups. The Pride lost in Mechanicsburg back in mid-January, but then won a thriller in overtime in Chester on February 12th.
“They have the best post player in the conference at 6’3″ with Dori Gyori,” Kintner says. “They pound it inside and we have to slow her down and hope that she doesn’t get as many as she’s been getting on us the last two games.”
Gyori averaged 20.5 points in the two Widener/Messiah match-ups this season.
Friday night’s game will tip-off at 6:00pm. The winner of this game will face the winner of Amherst and Tufts on Saturday night.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.