York College senior point guard Aja Wallpher broke the Spartans' all-time assists mark with her first helper in Saturday's win over Mary Washington.
However, it was her sixth and final assist of the day that allowed the Spartan women to remain unbeaten with their heart-stopping 61-58 win over the Eagles at Charles Wolf Gymnasium.
With the Spartans trailing 58-57 with just under 50 seconds left, York took possession of the ball. After York tossed the ball around the perimeter, Wallpher drove to the basket but was met in the lane by a number of Eagles. The Spartan senior calming fed a beautiful bounce pass on the left block to a cutting Kelsey Murphy. Murphy's left-handed shot bounced twice on the rim before finding the bottom of the net with 27.3 seconds left in regulation.
The Spartans forced a tough lay up attempt from Mary Washington guard Sam Partonen and senior forward Kristen Haley grabbed the rebound and was fouled. Haley stepped to the line and sunk both free throws with just over 10 seconds left in the game, giving York a three-point advantage. Partonen's game-tying three-point attempt from the top of the arc was left and the Spartans' sealed their 17th win of the season.
Things didn't look good for the Spartans in the second half as the pesky Eagles never led York get comfortable. York led by five at 44-39 but the Eagles would clamp down defensively and hold the Green and White to just four points over the next nine minutes of play. While the Spartans struggled offensively, the Eagles tallied 13 points to take a 54-48 lead with 6:05 left. Similar to the Spartans' Jan. 11 game against Salisbury when they trailed late in the game, Wallpher stepped up to make a play to right the ship. Wallpher was in the right place at the right time after a Haley missed shot. The Spartans' point guard collected the offensive rebound and put home the rebound for a huge momentum push.
After Wallpher's bucket, the Eagles quickly pushed the lead back to six. That's when senior All-American Brittany Hicks decided it was time to take the game over.
The York Catholic High School graduate hit a three-pointer at the 3:18 mark to cut the York deficit to three. After the Spartan defense got a shot clock violation, Hicks got a long offensive rebound and hit a lay up to draw York to within one with 2:18 left in the game.
York got another turnover followed by a missed three as the Eagles had the ball and the lead with 56 seconds left. Mary Washington's Claire Hauptle could not handle a pass as the ball went off her hands and out of bounds with 50 seconds left, setting the stage for Murphy's go-ahead bucket.
Hicks was absolutely fantastic as she tallied her ninth double-double of the year with 22 points and 15 rebounds. She was 7-for-14 from the floor and a career-high 3-for-3 from three while she also converted 5-of-6 from the free throw line. Haley added 17 points and eight rebounds in her 31 minutes of work.
Wallpher finished the game with six assists, seven rebounds, and five points in the win. Wallpher passed former Spartan All-American Keli Ward on the assists list as she now has 646 career helpers. Wallpher got to do the honors in front of Ward who was in the house for Alumni Weekend. Murphy finished the game with eight points, a career-high three blocked shots two rebounds, and two assists as she harassed Partonen all day long.
Partonen led the Eagles with 15 points but 13 of those came in the first half. In fact, she scored the first 10 points of the game for UMW and 13 of the Eagles' first 17. Partonen was 5-for-17 from the floor and 3-for-6 from three. Sarah Listenbee notched 12 points and five rebounds off the bench for the Eagles while Caitlin Ciniero was the third Eagle in double figures with 10 points.
The Spartans are now 17-0 overall and 8-0 in the league. Mary Washington falls to 11-5 overall and 4-5 in the conference. York is ranked 10th in the USA Today/WBCA Coaches Poll and 11th in the d3hoops.com Poll
The Spartans will head out on the road for two games next week. York starts the road trip when they head to PSU-Harrisburg on Wednesday night to face the Lions in a 6 p.m. CAC contest.