By Kyle Krajewski
The KU women’s basketball team became the first team in program history to make it to the PSAC championship game. Following a 67-62 victory over No. 21 California (PA) in the semifinals on March 9, the Golden Bears moved on to play No. 14 IUP in the championship game. KU fell to the nationally ranked IUP in the PSAC championship 72-57.
In the team’s first semifinal appearance since 2010, the Golden Bears were looking to make history.
KU started the game confident by starting off with a 14-4 lead against California just about five minutes into the game. As the quarter went on, the opponent started gaining ground, ending the first quarter only trailing 17-14. The Golden Bears kept their lead for a majority of the half until California sunk a three-pointer and a final-second layup to lead 30-28 heading into halftime.
The Golden Bears weren’t going to lose this game and their play to begin the second half showed it. After two more ties, KU retook the lead at 34-32 less than three minutes into the half and never let go of that lead for the remainder of the game.
Four KU players reached double-digit points in the semifinal game while sophomore Rylee Derr led the charge with 23 points and six rebounds. Senior Taylor Thames added 12 points and six rebounds, junior Brianna Tarabocchia tallied 11 points and two rebounds and junior Gabbi Wright contributed 10 points, two rebounds, two steals and two blocks.
KU was then put to the task of defeating a second nationally ranked team less than 24 hours apart when they had to face IUP in the championship, but KU was up for the challenge.
The Golden Bears began the game strong and fast, finishing the first quarter with a 22-9 lead. The team then went on to go up by as much as 14 points, 27-13, with a little over 7 minutes left in the quarter. IUP then went on to score the next 13 points and 16 of the final 21 of the half, cutting KU’s advantage down to 32-29 going into halftime.
Going into the second half, IUP had the hot hand and scored the first 10 points to take their first lead of the game. They went ahead by as many as 16 points (52-36) and led 52-39 at the close of the third quarter. One quarter remained in the championship game, but KU was unable to catch back up. The Golden Bears were only able to get as close as 11 (52-41) for the remainder of the quarter and the game closed at a score of 72-57.
The championship game saw junior Karen Lapkiewicz lead the team with 15 points and five rebounds, going 3-for-4 from three-point range. Tarabocchia tallied 12 points and five rebounds for the Golden Bears. Thames posted nine points, four rebounds and three assists while Derr contributed eight points, seven rebounds and three assists.
KU ends the season as PSAC East co-champions, their first division championship since 1996, and the first ever Golden Bear basketball team to compete in the conference championship.