Crimson Hawks blow late, double-digit lead to Fighting Scots

Amy Fairman (junior, business management) tries to find space against an Edinboro defender Saturday. (Dave Gershgorn/ The Penn)

A tough senior season for Melanie Todd (sports administration), Jessica Wallace (athletic training) and Talen Watson (sports administration) continued Saturday as the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Crimson Hawks dropped another heartbreaker, this time against Edinboro University, 69-63.

What made this latest loss even tougher to swallow was the fact that they dropped a game they were leading by 14 points on Senior Night.

They locked up with the best team the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division had to offer in the Edinboro University Fighting Scots. The Crimson Hawks held a lead for the bulk of the game only to have Edinboro storm back late in the game.

That sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It happened a week ago against Gannon University.

IUP led by as much as 14 over the Fighting Scots, but Edinboro used the free throw line and timely shooting to claw back into the game.

The Fighting Scots and the Crimson Hawks had their fair share of struggles shooting the basketball early.

IUP shot the ball at 25 percent while Edinboro was held to 16 percent shooting at the first media timeout.

Early on, Ashley Stoner (junior, English) carried the Crimson Hawks offensively by scoring the team’s first eight points of the contest.

Edinboro and IUP exchanged runs in the first half, but IUP pulled ahead of the Fighting Scots late.

A 3-point play from Watson and a layup from Stoner put the Crimson Hawks up by 13 heading into halftime.

In the first half, IUP clamped down defensively and held the Fighting Scots’ leading scorer, Valerie Majewski, off the scoreboard. IUP limited Edinboro to 29 percent shooting from the field.

“We played good basketball in the first half,” IUP head coach Tom McConnell said. “We were able to limit them to 30 percent from the floor and 20 points at halftime.”

In addition, IUP created havoc for the Fighting Scots. The IUP offense had the Edinboro defense scrambling to find their assignments

Lindsay Stamp (junior, criminal justice) said the team focused on creating mismatches in practice.

“They switch a lot, and it is easy to take advantage of mismatches on them,” Stamp said.

Much like their contest against Gannon University, IUP entered the second half with a lead.

Right away, the Fighting Scots caused momentum swings, and IUP had trouble keeping up with Edinboro.

Edinboro cut the IUP stranglehold to seven at the second media timeout, and from there the Crimson Hawks started accumulating fouls.

The Fighting Scots transitioned into an effective press defense.

Edinboro head coach Stan Swank said his team had a subpar first half of basketball.

“We didn’t play well the first half at all, and that’s a tribute to them,” Swank said. “I came out in a press just to get our kids going and get them awake. It helped because we started rebounding, and our kids started getting to the basket and getting fouls.”

Majewski, Aignee Freeland and Darche Jackson all elevated their games in the second half and they help lead the Edinboro comeback.

With just over six minutes to play in the second half, Edinboro started their game-ending drive with a Laurel Lindsay 3-point shot.

Fouls from IUP sent Edinboro to the line and the Fighting Scots drew within striking distance.

With 59 seconds left to play, Edinboro’s leading scorer, Majewski, drilled a triple to give the Fighting Scots their first lead of the game since the 11:36 mark of the first half, at 63-61.

Majewski is a transfer from the University of Buffalo, and Swank said she added impact to the team.

“She was able to play immediately and make an impact,” Swank said. “She gets it done on the court, and she plays her game.”

From there, Edinboro tightly held the momentum. For IUP, that was be the closest the team would get to the Fighting Scots.

Edinboro made their free throws and completed the comeback. Conversely, IUP failed to score a basket in the final minute of play.

McConnell said the team was not able to stop Edinboro’s momentum in the second half.

“We didn’t play with the fervor that we did in the first half,” McConnell said. “There were too many easy buckets and too many drives to the basket.”

McConnell added that the challenge his team faces is putting together a 40 minute effort throughout a contest.

Swank said his Fighting Scots clinched the No. 1 overall seed in the PSAC tournament with the victory.

“We really weren’t that highly thought of at the beginning of the season,” Swank said. “You can’t count these girls out. They work together well, and when it gets down they will reach down and help each other.”

Despite the loss, IUP clinched a home game against Pitt-Johnstown Saturday, March 1, which is something Stamp and McConnell said is important for the team.

“Anytime we can play here, it’s a good thing for us,” McConnell said. “We play in a good conference, top to bottom, and now we want to play well heading into the playoffs and build momentum.”

The Crimson Hawks will travel to Slippery Rock University to take on the Pride Wednesday in their final regular-season game.