A quick start by No. 20 Christopher Newport provided the edge as the Captains knocked out the EMU women in the NCAA National Tournament, 78-63. The Royals struggled with CNU's pressure early and couldn't make up the difference as they bowed out of the national tournament in the first round for the second straight year.
Christopher Newport started with all the momentum, taking advantage of their height and full court pressure. The Captains were up 4-0 before EMU even got the ball on their offensive end and 11-0 before the women scored.
Shakeerah Sykes (Dumfries, Va./Forest Park) finally put the women on the scoreboard with a bucket at 15:48. The Royals settled down and took advantage of their speed to score seven straight to make it 11-7.
CNU had the lead back at double figures at 24-14 before the women made a run. Another 7-0 streak got the Royals within 38-31, but the Captains scored the final five of the period, including a banked three pointer at the buzzer, to lead 43-31 at halftime.
The momentum continued, as Christopher Newport surged out of the second half gates with a 16-3 run, blowing open a 59-34 cushion at the 13:50 mark. Eastern Mennonite played strong to the final buzzer, but couldn't make up the deficit.
The Captains had a shooting edge of 53% to 47%, five less turnovers, and a slight edge in most other statistical categories.
Sykes tied her career high with 23 points on 11-for-16 shooting to go with seven rebounds. Keyla Baltimore (Bristow, Va./Brentsville District) hit double figures with 10 points and four assists. Fellow seniors Bianca Ygarza (Conestoga, Pa./Penn Manor) and Steph Rheinheimer (Manheim, Pa./Lancaster Mennonite) contributed nine and eight points, respectively. Jess Rheinheimer (Manheim, Pa./Lancaster Mennonite) had eight rebounds, seven points and three assists.
CNU's inside players led their way, with 6-1 center Camry Green hitting for 21 points and 13 rebounds, while 5-10 forward Nicole Mitchell had 20 points and five assists.
Eastern Mennonite closes the year at 22-6, their third straight 20-win season. The 22 wins are tied for second-most wins in program history. The Royals also earned their second consecutive and third overall trip to the NCAA Tournament this season.
The three seniors on the team complete a record-setting time in EMU history, as they leave with the most wins of any class, compiling a record of 80-28 overall and 60-12 in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. Each also put a stamp on the program history book.
Bianca Ygarza will graduate with 1,215 career points, good for sixth in program history. The well-rounded forward is also seventh with 671 career rebounds, tied for 13th with 132 steals, and just outside of the top 15 with 179 assists.
Keyla Baltimore handed out 315 assists in just three seasons at EMU, putting her second all-time. She passed Joanna Branner (1973-77) in her final game. The point guard is also 16th in program history with 119 steals.
Guard/forward Steph Rheinheimer played multiple roles for the Royals in her four seasons, and comes in 16th with 893 career points. She also broke Emily Mullet's record for career three-point field goal percentage, hitting 37.5% of her attempts (194-517). Mullet's mark was 37.3% (308-826).