The St. John Fisher College women's basketball won the Empire 8 Conference Championship on Saturday, as the third-seeded Cardinals held on for an 86-84 overtime-win over host Ithaca College.
With the win, Fisher (21-6) earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championship. The Cardinals will find out on Monday afternoon who and where they will play in the 64-team national tournament.
Junior Mary Kate Cusack scored a career-high 41 points and was selected as the Championship's Most Valuable Player. The guard tied the Fisher game-record for 3-pointer with eight for the second time in 14 days. The 41 points were one shy of the Fisher single-game record of 42, set by Melissa Hartman (2005) and Sue Mulroney (1979).
It was a back-and-forth game early on that featured 13 lead changes and six ties.The Cardinals led by as 12 at 19-7 just five minutes into the game. Ithaca came storming, however, and used a 22-3 run over the next seven minutes to take the lead.
The Bombers led 42-38 at the half, but Fisher regained the lead on a 3-pointer from Cusack with 16 minutes left, making it 49-48.
Fisher would lead by as many as eight at 76-68 with just under five minutes left. Ithaca, however, went on a 11-0 run to take a 79-76 lead with just over two minutes.
Cusack again answered for the Cardinals draining a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession, knotting the game at 79, where it would stay until the end of regulation.
Fisher would next trail in overtime. Senior Portia Velasco scored back-to-back buckets on Fisher's first two possessions in overtime. Ithaca trimmed Fisher's lead down to one point with just over 30 seconds left. After Cusack converted on 1-of-2 free throws with 12.7 seconds left, the Bombers attempted a potential game-winning 3-pointer from the top of the key as the horn sounded, but the shot clanged off the front of the rim.
Velasco finished with 19 points and four assists, while fellow senior Sydney Bloomstein grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds, while scoring eight points.