Shenandoah women win ODAC championship

The Shenandoah University women's basketball team captured its first ODAC championship in program history with a 63-53 win over Washington and Lee on Sunday at the Salem Civic Center. The Hornets qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the third time in program history with the win. 

The Shenandoah University women's basketball team capped off a run for the ages on Sunday to earn its third NCAA Tournament berth in school history.

Two days after the Hornets became the first the No. 8 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in the ODAC Tournament, SU became the lowest seeded team in the 37-year history of the tournament to win the championship at the Salem Civic Center.

The Hornets defeated No. 3 Washington and Lee 63-53 in the championship game for their third win in three days over a higher-seeded team, all at the Civic Center.

Shenandoah entered the ODAC Tournament with a losing record, but a run that started with a 79-60 victory over ninth-seeded Bridgewater in Tuesday's first round game in Winchester now puts the Hornets at 16-13 for the year. SU has won six straight games overall. 

The Hornets will find out where they're headed in the 64-team NCAA Division III Tournament when the bracket is revealed at 2:30 p.m. today. SU is one of 43 teams to earn automatic bids in the tournament that starts Friday. 

The Hornets only other conference tournament championships came in the Dixie Conference (1996 and 2000). They will make their third NCAA Tournament berth this year.

The Generals beat the Hornets 77-65 on Jan. 26 in their only regular-season meeting, but past performance did not matter to SU in the ODAC Tournament. The Hornets did not defeat either top-seeded Guilford or No. 4 Randolph-Macon (18-9) in the regular season, losing twice to the Yellow Jackets.

ODAC Player of the Tournament Shannon Kuhn (17 points) gave SU the lead for good at 4-3 with a layup with 5:34 remaining in the first quarter on Sunday, but the Generals fought the Hornets until the end. SU led 14-10 after one quarter, 24-20 at the half, and was up just 34-31 with 2:44 left in the third quarter after W&L's Erin Hughes knocked down two free throws. 

But the Hornets knocked down three 3-pointers over the remainder of the quarter to take a 43-31 lead. W&L fought back to within 51-47 with three minutes left, but SU outscored the Generals 12-6 down the stretch.

For SU, Jordan Sondrol scored 16 points and Sierra St. Cyr added 8 points and 6 rebounds. Both were also named to the all-tournament team along with Kuhn. Olivia Weinel added 12 points.  

On Saturday, the Hornets hammered No. 4 seed and defending ODAC Tournament champion Randolph-Macon College 58-41 in the semifinals. The Hornets defeated top-seeded Guilford 52-49 in overtime in Friday's quarterfinals.

SU led for 35:10 of the 40 minutes in Saturday's game. The Hornets led 11-5 after one quarter, 24-14 at halftime and 36-24 after three quarters as it held R-MC to just 23 percent shooting (14 for 61) for the contest.

In taking the 10-point halftime lead, the Hornets saw Macon make just three of its 25 first-half shots (12 percent) and commit 10 turnovers.

Following a sloppy end to the third quarter, in which the two teams combined for 10 turnovers and 14 missed shots in the final five minutes, Shenandoah poured it on to start the fourth.

Leading 36-24, Ragan Johnson opened the period by sandwiching a pair of 3-pointers around a Kuhn jumper to open up a 44-24 lead with 7:34 left in the game. The Hornets never let their lead dip below 15 points the rest of the way.

Kuhn led the way with 19 points with Johnson adding 10 points and three assists off the bench. Kuhn was also one of three SU players to pull down eight rebounds (McKenzie Mathis and St. Cyr were the others) as SU grabbed 49 of the game's 83 boards.

Saturday's win was the sixth for SU over R-MC in 24 lifetime meetings. The Hornets shot 45 percent for the game (23 for 51) and their bench outscored the Jackets' bench 25-8. Macon did not have a player score in double figures.

Shenandoah clinched its first winning season in nine years with the win over Randolph-Macon.

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at rniedzwiecki@winchesterstar.com

Follow on Twitter @WinStarSports1