Brown's Game-Winner Erases Big Deficit For NCAA Win

Alisa Brown had just one field goal against La Roche, but the game-winner was the biggest shot of her career.
Alisa Brown had just one field goal against La Roche, but the game-winner was the biggest shot of her career.
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In dramatic fashion, the Eastern Mennonite basketball women came from behind to earn a 77-76 win over La Roche in a First Round game in the NCAA Tournament Friday night in Crestview Hills, Ky.  The women trailed by as many as 18 points in each half, but Alisa Brown's (Dumfries, Va./Forest Park) game-winning layup with 4.5 seconds left capped a 35-16 game-ending run, giving the Royals their first NCAA Tournament win since 2004.

The Royals, now 23-4, advance to a Second Round game against No. 1 Thomas More Saturday night at 6:30pm.  The Saints, who are hosting the four-team pod, dispatched of USA South champion Greensboro 83-61 in Friday's late game.

EMU opened their game against the Allegheny Mountain champion Redhawks with a three pointer from Jess Rheinheimer (Manheim, Pa./Lancaster Mennonite), as the women led for the first four minutes.

But La Roche struck a 10-0 run, blowing open the tight start.  They continued to hit shots as their lead grew to 37-19 with 6:04 left in the half.  The Royals started attacking the basket and slowed the game down by racking up fouls on the short-benched Redhawks.  Led by their free throw shooting, the women ended the half on a 15-5 run, successfully getting the deficit into single digits by halftime, 42-34.

But all the momentum the Royals earned in those six minutes went away at the break.  EMU made just three of their first 14 shots in the second as La Roche used an 18-8 run over the first eight minutes to push the margin back up to 60-42.

A quick 9-0 run, capped by a Shakeerah Sykes (Dumfries, Va./Forest Park) three point play, trimmed it down to 60-51.  The teams then traded short bursts with neither able to string together more than one or two stops defensively.

Rheinheimer hit a pair of free throws after a technical on the Redhawks' coach, getting the women within 68-62.

The tide really started to turn with 5:03 left to play, when La Roche's star, LaShauna Brothers, fouled out on a reach in away from the hoop.  Rheinheimer hit both tosses to cut the lead to five at 72-67.

The Redhawks answered with an offensive putback, but the Royals then clamped on the defense.  Marla zumFelde (Goshen, Ind./Bethany Christian) rimmed in a huge three pointer with 2:50 left, cutting the deficit to 74-72.  Another LC starter fouled out with 2:22 left and Eastern Mennonite took the opportunity to hold La Roche scoreless for a key spell of 4:24.

Brown hit one of two tosses to make it a one-point game.  Myneshia Walker (Freeman, Va./Brunswick) picked put a steal on the defensive end, and Rheinheimer then hit a layup after a Sykes offensive rebound, thrusting the Royals into a 75-74 lead with 1:07 to play.  It was the women's first lead since the 16:00 mark of the first half.

The Redhawks travelled on their next possession, but Walker missed a three pointer, giving it back to La Roche with 29 seconds left.  They worked it inside and re-took the lead on a layup from McKenzie O'Donnell with 15 ticks to go, and the Royals called a timeout to set up their final play.

With Brown dribbling at the top of the key, the Redhawks took away the main options for the set play.  So Brown attacked the hoop and rolled the game-winning shot over the front of the rim.  La Roche had enough time to launch a shot from midcourt, which skimmed off the side of the rim, leaving EMU with the win.

Eastern Mennonite was out-shot 51.6% to 37.9%, but the Royals earned the win by drawing 23 fouls on La Roche's seven-player rotation.  The women had a huge advantage at the free throw line, making 27-of-33, compared to 7-of-8 for their opponents.  EMU also had a 40-31 advantage on the glass, including 17 offensive rebounds.

Sykes was key with her 16th double double of the year, finishing with 28 points and 16 rebounds.  The senior shot 7-9 from the floor and 14-15 from the free throw line.  Rheinheimer was right behind her, charting 22 points and seven rebounds.  ZumFelde canned four triples and finished with 12 points.

Nora Osei (Springfield, Va./West Springfield) added seven points.  Brown had three assists and three steals.  She finished with just four points and one made field goal, although it was the most important basket of the game.

Brothers was unstoppable for La Roche, scoring 32 points and with nine rebounds before fouling out.  O'Donnell had 14 points while Sabrina McLin scored 13 with six assists.

Coach Kevin Griffin talks about the thrilling end to his team's comeback from an 18-point deficit:

EMU WBB vs La Roche NCAA
Mar 6, 2015

Coach Kevin Griffin talks about the thrilling end to his team's comeback from an 18-point deficit.