Five Things to Watch in the PAC Women’s Basketball Tournament

By Justin Zackal

The 2016-17 PAC Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament tips off tonight with a pair of first-round games at Grove City and Bethany, followed by action Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Here are five things to watch:


Thomas More sophomore guard Madison Temple.

Top-seeded Thomas More (25-0, 18-0 PAC), the No. 2-ranked team in the country, claims nine PAC titles. The Saints haven’t lost to a PAC team since 2012 or in a PAC tournament game since 2006. They receive a double bye and hosting rights for the final two rounds on Friday and Saturday.

The Saints are led by their “Big Three” of junior guard Abby Owings (16.3 PPG), sophomore guard Madison Temple (15.9 PPG) and junior forward Nikki Kiernan (15.0 PPG). No other player entered the season having averaged more than 10.3 minutes per game, so there are some new contributors, but the results are the same.

“It’s a matter of getting some freshmen acclimated during the year,” said Thomas More head coach Jeff Hans. “I think those guys have really grown up in January and February to gain that experience to where they are ready to help us make a run.”

To name a few, freshmen Emily Schultz (6.8 PPG) and Kylie Kramer (4.2 PPG) come off the bench and average around 13 minutes per game.

Other than earning the automatic berth into the NCAA playoffs, what Hans is looking to achieve this week is getting his team clicking, particularly working on defensive chemistry and not giving up easy baskets.

“You work all year long to play your best at this time because it is win-or-go-home time,” Hans added. “We want take care of our business.”


Thomas More is most likely to advance to the championship game, but who will the Saints play in the finals?

Last year’s finalist Washington & Jefferson (16-9, 13-5 PAC) has dealt with injuries this year, most notably junior guard Amirah Moore (14.0 PPG), who hasn’t played in nearly a month. However, the Presidents also have a double bye and they played Thomas More moderately close on Saturday, trailing by only four points with seven minutes to go in a 73-50 loss. As a point of reference, Thomas More outscored PAC opponents by an average of 42 points per game, including W&J and third-seeded Saint Vincent (16-9, 13-5 PAC) by a 26-point average.

Saint Vincent, which last played in the finals two years ago, can avoid Thomas More in the semifinals, which is how the Bearcats ended last season. Saint Vincent must play a quarterfinal game Wednesday to set up a game against W&J in the semifinals. The Bearcats lost to W&J twice this year but by a combined six points.

“We were right there: two possessions and one possession,” said Saint Vincent head coach Jimmy Petruska. “We have to get a couple more defensive stops and offensive takes.”

Petruska complimented W&J senior guard Taylor Cortazzo (12.4 PPG), along with Danielle Parker (14.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG) and Rachel Bellhy (12.2 PPG, 8.5 RPG) as the best post players his team faced all year, but Petruska hinted that W&J’s lack of depth could give Saint Vincent a good chance to beat the Presidents on the Bearcats’ third try.

“We definitely want to get to the conference title game.” Petruska said. “I think we have the team to do it. We’re playing well right now, so anything short of getting into that title game, then obviously winning it, is the minimum I want for this team.”


Bethany’s Sammie Weiss is a talented transfer from D-II Cal-U.

To get to W&J, the Bearcats will need to win at home Wednesday against the winner of Monday’s game between sixth-seeded Bethany (12-13, 10-8 PAC) and seventh-seeded Chatham (12-12, 7-11 PAC).

Bethany, which easily defeated Chatham twice this year, has the second- and third-ranked scorers in the PAC in junior Kelsea Daugherty (18.1 PPG) and senior Haley Holenka (17.5 PPG). However, when asked about the Bison, both Petruska and Hans first mentioned Sammie Weiss (16.3 PPG), who entered the lineup midway through the season.

Bethany’s version of the “Big Three” combined for 53 points in a 65-46 win at Saint Vincent Jan. 5, and 51 points in a 69-64 loss to the Bearcats at Bethany Feb. 8.


No Saint Vincent player averages more than 13 points, but keep an eye on Saint Vincent freshman Paige Montrose, who Petruska said is playing “phenomenal basketball the past six or seven weeks.” She averages only 5.1 points and she doesn’t even start, but she’s averaged 8.0 in her last three games and she scored a team-high 16 against W&J.


Perhaps it’s a recency bias because Saint Vincent just beat Westminster, 60-46, on Saturday, but Petruska said to watch out for the eighth-seeded Titans (10-15, 5-13 PAC).

Westminster beat Bethany, 67-60, three weeks ago and was within five points of W&J in the fourth quarter in a 72-60 loss. Westminster plays Monday at fifth-seeded Grove City (14-11, 10-8 PAC), a team the Titans lost to twice this year but only by a combined eight points.

If Westminster wins, the Titans will travel to fourth-seeded Waynesburg (15-10, 11-7 PAC) Wednesday.