RMU women's basketball team headed to NCAA tournament
Robert Morris beats Bryant, 65-52
March 12, 2017 4:24 PM
The Robert Morris Colonials' Anna Niki Stampolamprou lifts the NEC championship trophy after beating the Bryant Bulldogs at Sewall Center.
The Colonials' Anna Niki Stamolamprou drives to the basket against Bryant.
By Omari Sankfofa II / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Moments after the final buzzer went off, Sewall Center turned into a haze of loud cheers, students rushing the court, and players jumping in celebration. In the midst of the ruckus, Charlie Buscaglia shared an embrace with Anna Niki Stamolamprou near midcourt.
More than four years after flying from Greece to the United States to begin her collegiate basketball career at Robert Morris, Stamolamprou solidified her historic career at Robert Morris on Sunday. Buscaglia, who flew to Greece to recruit her as an assistant coach, took a moment to reflect on what she’s brought to the program.
“I told her that we belong together in this process, in this development,” Buscaglia said. “She’s my kind of player because she has a huge heart and I’ve seen her grow up so well and she understands that she’s earned everything through being a team player, not worrying about shots, her fame and all that.
“I’m really proud that she spent her four years here and that we’re going to the tournament together.”
No. 1 Robert Morris defeated No. 4 Bryant, 65-52, Sunday to win its second consecutive Northeast Conference tournament championship and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Colonials will learn their opponent Monday night when the pairings and sites are announced for the tournament.
Stamolamprou, the reigning NEC player of the year, earned NEC tournament MVP honors for the second time in her career, leading all scorers with 23 points to go with nine rebounds, five assists and two steals.
With the win, Robert Morris’ senior class has won three NEC championships in its four years with the program. The Colonials also sent Sewall Center off in style, as the arena will be demolished later this year to make room for the UPMC Events Center, which is scheduled to open in a couple years.
“It feels amazing,” Stamolamprou said. “We did a great job tonight being aggressive, executing our game plan.”
Senior guard Rebeca Navarro added 12 points, and junior forward Mikalah Mulrain added four blocks. Sophomore guard Kierra Palmer led Bryant with 16 points.
Senior guard Janee Brown, who missed the first two tournament games with an ankle injury to snap her run of 127 consecutive games played, entered the game in the final seconds to take part in the win. She said there’s a chance she’ll be healthy for the NCAA tournament.
Robert Morris led by as many as 22, but a late Bryant run cut the lead to eight with less than four minutes remaining.
Holding a 51-43 lead, Stamolamprou used a screen from Mulrain to get to the rim. Drawing two defenders, she passed the ball back to Mulrain, who make a layup through contact and hit the ensuing free throw to push the lead back to double digits and seal the win.
Last year, Robert Morris’ season ended with a 101-49 blowout loss to No. 1 Connecticut in the NCAA tournament. With another berth this year, Navarro said the team is ready for whatever opponent is next. Even a rematch with Connecticut.
“Whatever comes, we’re going to face it,” Navarro said. “Whatever comes.”
Omari Sankofa II: email@example.com and Twitter @omarisankofa.
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