ALLIANCE, Ohio — M as in March. M as in Madness. M as in Mount Union.
Senior Amanda Rose (Uniontown/Green) and junior Rosa LaMattina (Westlake/Westlake) fueled a furious second-half comeback for the No. 6-ranked Mount Union women's basketball team, and the Purple Raiders defeated No. 25 Muhlenberg (Pa.) 61-55 in the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament on Saturday night.
The victory for Mount Union (28-1) extended the school-record to 22 straight overall, and was the Purple Raiders' 25th consecutive at the McPherson Academic and Athletic Complex.
Mount Union trailed by as many as 15 points on three occasions in the first half, the largest deficit in any game this season. But the Purple Raiders closed the game on a 24-4 run over the final 12:29, exciting a raucous crowd, and advancing to the Sweet 16 for the second time in three seasons.
"This was the greatest game I've ever witnessed at Mount Union. It was one to remember," said Purple Raiders coach Suzy Venet -- who played on a pair of Final 4 teams at the school.
Those in attendance were credited by coach and players for fueling the comeback.
"Absolutely," said LaMattina. "If we were playing this game on the road or at a neutral site we would have stayed down."
Erin Laney's layup gave Muhlenberg (23-6) a 51-37 lead with 12:29 remaining in the game. LaMattina answered with a 3-pointer, a steal and a layup and another 3-pointer to make it 51-45 with 10:35 to go.
Meanwhile, theRaiders got outstanding defense from junior Tierney Allen (Alliance/Alliance) and senior Erin Schmidt (Akron/Walsh Jesuit) on Muhlenberg's Alexandra Chili. The All-American and Jostens Award finalist finished with 18 points, but was held scoreless over the final 13:49.
"We always say 'Will to Win' and the 'Strength to Survive,'" said Venet, "and Allen and Schmidt on defense personified that tonight."
Mount Union missed its first 10 shots of the game and trailed 13-0, but Rose scored 11 points after that to keep the Purple Raiders within striking distance.
"I was OK with our shot selection," said Venet. "We just kept telling the players, 'Don't panic. Keep your cool.' Then we got some stops on defense, we got rebounds, and we started making some shots."
Rose's layup with 3:11 remaining in the game tied the score at 55, then a series of missed shots and turnovers by both teams kept it that way until 1:02 left, when Allen was fouled. She missed the free throw, but alertly picked up the offensive rebound and converted the layup to give the Purple Raiders their first lead of the game, 57-55. Allen and senior Kori Wiedt (North Olmsted/North Olmsted) added two free throws apiece to finish the scoring.
Over the final 12:29, Muhlenberg went 2-for-12 from the field and committed seven turnovers.
"At halftime, we recollected," said LaMattina, "and we talked about playing defense, getting pressure and getting our offense started off that. We started to do that and you could see them getting so tired. I knew when Tierney made that layup we were going to do it."
The sites for the Sectional Rounds on March 9-10 will be announced by the NCAA on Sunday.
Newspaper Box Score
Muhlenberg (Pa.) vs Mount Union
03/03/12 7 pm at The MAAC - Alliance, Ohio
MOUNT UNION 61, MUHLENBERG (PA.) 55
MUHLENBERG (PA.) (23-6)
Alexandra Chili 7-18 0-0 18; Alita Zabrecky 6-18 2-2 15; Kathleen Naddaff5-8 1-2 11; Erin Laney 4-5 0-0 8; Hannah Rush 1-5 0-0 3; Leeann Lanza 0-30-0 0; Kimberly Mui 0-0 0-0 0; Kate Clawson 0-0 0-0 0; Katy Mitton 0-0 0-00; Katy Rossino 0-0 0-0 0; Colleen Caldwell 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-57 3-4 55.
MOUNT UNION (28-1)
Amanda Rose 9-14 0-1 19; Rosa LaMattina 6-19 0-0 15; Tierney Allen 2-5 6-1111; Erin Schmidt 2-5 1-2 6; Kori Wiedt 1-10 2-2 5; Kelly Evans 1-2 0-0 3;Maggie Miller 0-0 1-2 1; Marybeth Leitch 0-3 1-3 1; Amanda Tamerlano 0-1 0-00; Allie Fritsch 0-0 0-0 0; Olivia Holt 0-0 0-0 0; Aly Daniel 0-5 0-0 0.Totals 21-64 11-21 61.
Muhlenberg (Pa.).............. 33 22 - 55
Mount Union................... 23 38 - 61
3-point goals--Muhlenberg (Pa.) 6-17 (Alexandra Chili 4-9; Hannah Rush 1-2;Alita Zabrecky 1-6), Mount Union 8-22 (Rosa LaMattina 3-10; Kelly Evans 1-2;Amanda Rose 1-1; Erin Schmidt 1-1; Tierney Allen 1-2; Kori Wiedt 1-6).Fouled out--Muhlenberg (Pa.)-None, Mount Union-None. Rebounds--Muhlenberg(Pa.) 46 (Alexandra Chili 15), Mount Union 38 (Tierney Allen 9).Assists--Muhlenberg (Pa.) 12 (Alita Zabrecky 3; Hannah Rush 3), Mount Union14 (Maggie Miller 3; Tierney Allen 3; Rosa LaMattina 3). Totalfouls--Muhlenberg (Pa.) 15, Mount Union 8. Technical fouls--Muhlenberg(Pa.)-None, Mount Union-None. A-625
2012 NCAA Women's Basketball second round game; Mount Union advances to thesectionals next weekend.