BY JEFF FALK
A title can be both a prize and a reward. The Lebanon Valley College women’s basketball team has the opportunity and the hardware to prove it.
On Saturday at the LVC Gymnasium in Annville, the Flying Dutchmen copped the championship of the Commonwealth Conference with an 80-71 victory over Widener. Lebanon Valley also claimed the NCAA Division Three tournament bid that goes with it.
The Flying Dutchmen tallied the last nine points to break open a close game late. Tournament MVP and Conference Rookie-of-the-Year Kiely Chaklos poured in a game-high 27 points and paced an LVC attack that featured five double-figure scorers.
Chaklos set up Caitlin Murphy for a ten-foot jumper with 53 seconds remaining that gave the Flying Dutchmen a 74-71 advantage.
The conference title was Lebanon Valley’s second straight, but came with a distinctly different personnel flavor. Last season with a senior-oriented group, the Flying Dutchmen advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament.
LVC, now 24-3, will open play in this year’s event on Friday at a site and time to be announced. There is a chance that the 20th-ranked Flying Dutchmen could host an opening-round game.
With the loss, The Pride slipped to 18-9 overall.
Widener’s last lead of the game came at 63-62 with 3:45 to play. The Flying Dutchmen outscored The Pride 18-8 from that point on, with ten of those points coming from the foul stripe.
Tierney Hiltz complemented Chaklos by notching 15 points, while Renee Fritz recorded 13. Caitlin Bach counted 11 points and 11 rebounds, and Murphy finished with ten points.
Widener actually led 37-33 at the break. But Lebanon Valley outscored The Pride 47-34 in the second half.
By nailing 26 of 30 attempts, the Flying Dutchmen outscored Widener by 17 points at the charity strike. Chaklos went 11-for-12 at the line.
Lebanon Valley also held The Pride to 37 percent shooting for the game, while converting 46 percent of its shots in the second 20 minutes of action.
Prior to the beginning of the season, Lebanon Valley was picked to finish second in the Commonwealth Conference. Twice during the regular season the Flying Dutchmen defeated conference favorite Widener.