LEWISBURG - As Bucknell's Shelby Romine walked off the court at Sojka Pavillion on Thursday, tears streamed down her face. The senior guard, who has started more than 100 games for the Bison and is No. 5 on the program's all-time scoring list, knew her days donning blue and orange had come to an end.
Romine's senior campaign concluded sooner than she would have liked after the Bison suffered a devastating, 79-66, loss to Holy Cross in the Patriot League tournament quarterfinals.
Coming into Thursday's contest, Bucknell was on pace to beat Holy Cross for the third time this season, after earning two come-from-beind victories over the Crusaders during the regular season. And after getting off to a 9-2 start last night, it looked like the Bison might get their wish.
However, as the game played on, Holy Cross found ways to work its way back into the game, and kept Bucknell's offense off-balance by alternating between a 2-3 zone and man-to-man defense.
"I told my assistants and my wife that we were going to play well," Holy Cross head coach Bill Gibbons said. "I could just feel it.
"I think the key to playoffs is to be relaxed and go out there and have fun. "The way we came out, we looked as tight as drums, but once we got our legs back under us, we did great."
After battling for the first-half lead through much of the game's opening 20 minutes, the Crusaders captured it with 6 minutes left in the half when senior guard Alex Smith drained a deep 3-pointer to put them up 25-23. From that moment forward, Bucknell fans could feel the momentum shift, as the Crusaders put their pedal to the floor and ended the first half with a 37-34 lead.
In the second half, Holy Cross never relinquished its lead, and increased its physicality to force Bucknell's offensive game to the perimeter where it had struggled since the opening buzzer. Despite putting four players in double figures, the Bison made just 3 of 15 3-point attempts. And in her last game as a Bison, Romine was held to a modest 10 points, off her average of 15.1 a game.
Smith, along with forward Raquel Scott, kept the Crusaders' energy flowing into the second half. Smith ended the game with a 13-point performance that saw her drain three 3-pointers, while Scott saw her 16th double-double of the season, with 27 points and 11 rebounds.
"It was an ocean out there for (Raquel)," Smith said. "Her jump shots were falling inside and outside. She is one of my favorite players to play with, because she always knows where to go on the floor. I think it's a great dynamic we have."
Scott said that she was happy to have the chance to play a full game against Bucknell, after having each of her last two outings against the Bison cut short due to foul trouble.
"The last game we played (with Bucknell) I only played 16 minutes, so I kind of got a little experience watching them," Scott said. "I always like a challenge and I like playing up to the level of my competitors, so I just wanted to be able to be out there competing with them."
Bucknell head coach, Aaron Roussell, said that his team felt no added pressure playing a team they had already beaten twice this season, and felt that his team was just outplayed.
"I think these games are singular and exclusive of the other two," he said. "If they want to use that as motivation, then so be it, but we were pretty motivated, too. I think the first two games gave us some confidence on the offensive end. But they played well, and if they had played that well in the first two games, then they would have won those as well."
The coach said his team would have fared better if they made it to the foul line more often. Bucknell did sink 11 of 15 shots from the line.
"I like it when there are more fouls called, and Raquel Scott isn't playing more than 16 minutes," he said.
Roussell also said that one of the hardest parts of the loss will be saying goodbye to his on-the-floor leader, Romine, as he knows she will not be easy to replace.
"You realize it is a blessing to coach a kid like this," he said. "For her to have the impact she has had on our program is amazing, and for all of our kids who will play here from here on out, there will be an impact of Shelby Romine."
"I would love to see her out here for the next couple years, but this kid has a bright future."