California, Pennsylvania, Women’s Basketball Team Dedicates Elite Eight Victory To Fallen Teammate

California University of Pennsylvania Vulcans became the first women’s basketball team to advance to the 2015 NCAA Division Final Four, with a 84-79 victory over Nova Southeastern at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D. in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.

The victory over No. 18 Nova Southeastern, gives No. 14 CalU its first appearance in the Final Four since taking home the national title in 2004, according to CalU Athletics. The Vulcans are now 3-2 all-time in Elite Eight games.

Senior Emma Mahady, who sealed the win for the Vulcans with a steal and layup in the waning seconds of overtime, had a game-high 24 points.

“I took the gamble and it paid off,” Mahady said of her steal. “If it didn’t, I’d be in trouble, but hey, it worked.”

Senior Kaitlynn Fratz added 21 points and four steals for the Vulcans while sophomore Miki Glenn added 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists.

CalU shot 41.7 percent from the floor and 43.8 percent from beyond the arc. The Vulcans, who shot 13 more free throws than Nova Southeastern, was 18-of-31 from the free throw line and forced 21 turnovers, which they turned into 18 points.

“All year long, these kids have fought, and I think we see it game after game,” CalU head coach Jess Strom said. “I never know if they have one more [game] in them, but they come up with big plays at big times.”

The Vulcans have dedicated this season to the memory of former teammate Shanice Clark. Clark, a 21-year old from senior forward from Toronto, who passed away at 4 a.m. on January 18, according to the Washington County coroner’s office. It was initially thought that Clark died after choking on gum while asleep. However, the Coroner’s office revealed, on March 16, that the cause of death is a blood disorder called sickle-cell trait.

Mark Gladwin, director of the Vascular Medicine Institute of the University of Pittsburgh, told the Pittsburgh Post- Gazette that while Sickle cell trait is different from sickle-cell disease, it is rarely deadly.

“The trait is ‘very common’ [and] found in about one in 10 African-Americans. The trait is common in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and people with the trait are actually protected from malaria.”

The Vulcans have been honoring Clark in several different ways according to Jacqueline Kantor of the Harrisburg Patriot news. Some players have written No. 44, Clark’s number, on their sneakers while others have written the number on the wrist. Sophomore Precious Martin wore No. 44 for the game against Nova Southeastern.

“Since Jan. 18 you can basically tell losing Shanice was the extra mile to get us where we are today,” said freshman forward Shatara Parsons.

During the game, Vulcans bench personnel yelled out some of Clark’s favorite sayings like “box out, ladies!” and “we need those rebounds”. The players chanted “Shanice” in unison after the game.

CalU is a finalist for the for the Russell Athletic “Together We R” team award, which is presented to a high school girls’ or college women’s program that has “strived to succeed in the face of adversity, overcoming extraordinary circumstances such as an unforeseen team crisis, barrier or unfortunate situation that caused extra stress.”

[photo via California University Athletics/ Don Wright]