Women's basketball team puts forth valiant effort in 69-59 defeat to Villa Maria on Saturday; Senior Ashley Duplan honored in classy ceremony prior to game

Women's basketball team puts forth valiant effort in 69-59 defeat to Villa Maria on Saturday; Senior Ashley Duplan honored in classy ceremony prior to game

The Berkeley College women's basketball team put forth a valiant effort this afternoon, but ultimately had its three-game winning streak snapped, falling to the Vikings of Villa Maria by a score of 69-59 on Senior Day. The game was played at the Borough of Manhattan Community College in Lower Manhattan. With the loss, the Knights slipped to 7-9 on the 2017-2018 season, while the Vikings improved to 18-6 on the year.

Prior to the game, the Berkeley College Department of Athletics – including Director of Athletics Andrew DeStephano, Head Coach Alex Kuchar, and the entire women's basketball program honored two-year Knight Ashley Duplan, as the guard served as Berkeley College's lone senior this season. Coach Kuchar took the microphone and said some heartfelt words about Duplan's impact on the program, and she was later presented with a commemorative plaque in a show of appreciation for her tenure at the institution. Following the day's events, Kuchar spoke about Duplan and the outcome of the game.

"Ashley has been an absolute pleasure to have in our women's basketball program for the past two seasons," Kuchar said following the game. "She is the embodiment of a true college student-athlete. Ashley pours her heart and soul into everything she does at Berkeley. Prior to last season, she immediately stepped into a leadership role in our basketball program and has flourished as a team captain and leader during her tenure. There has never been a drill, practice, or game where she does not give her all. She holds herself and her teammates to the highest standard. We talk about sacrificing pieces of ourselves in order to build new pieces of ourselves to win. That is no small task and Ashley has been victorious in doing so. I'm very proud of her. As for the game today, we had a great first quarter, as we played hard and executed on both sides. Unfortunately, we were not able to match our effectiveness after that. Villa Maria is a very good basketball team and they played great today. We allowed them to play to their strengths and that ultimately cost us."

On the same day that she was saluted as one of the cornerstones of the women's basketball program the past two seasons, Duplan put forth her best game of the 2017-2018 campaign, connected on eight of her 17 attempts from the floor and tying for the game-high with 19 points. She also added five rebounds while playing all 40 minutes. Ayana Ratliff performance was a mixed bag. Uncharacteristically, she misfired on 11 of her 15 attempts from the floor, but she was masterful at the charity stripe, drilling 11 of 12 shots from there. She would finish the afternoon by tying for the game-high with 19 points. Ratliff also tied for the team-lead with seven rebounds while adding four assists, a game-high four steals, and committing three turnovers. Jaiyamoira Myers knocked down three shots from downtown to finish with 13 points, seven caroms, and a team-high five assists, and Ebony Lofton finished with six points and six rebounds.

In a winning effort for Villa Maria, Shaquana Owens tied for the game-high with 19 points. She converted on five three-point baskets, while also posting game-highs of 12 rebounds and six assists, and tying for the game-high insteals with four. Bianca Brown added 16 points, three rebounds, and three assists, and Nina Cray finalized her afternoon with 15 points, eight rebounds, two assists, and two steals.

Neither team scored until 1:47 into the contest, when Cray would get the Vikings on the board with a made layup. A 9-0 Knights run – featuring five points from Ratliff and four from Duplan – put Berkeley College ahead by a score of 9-2. After Villa Maria scored six consecutive points to pull within one, Duplan would score the game's next five points by hitting a three and nailing a two-point attempt to put the Knights ahead 14-8. Berkeley led the game 16-13 after the first quarter.

Villa Maria would take the lead for good in the early stages of the second quarter when Clarissa Walker would make a basket to put the Vikings on top 18-16. A made layup by Leah McQuiller – and another hoop by Brown – put Villa Maria ahead by the score of 22-16. Berkeley kept it close, though, as Myers drained a triple, and that was followed by two consecutive free throw attempts from Ratliff, as the Knights inched to within a point at 22-21. The Vikings would then buckle down defensively, allowing just two Berkeley field goals in the final 6:49 of the second quarter. Villa Maria outscored the Knights 11-5 over the aforementioned timespan to take a 33-26 lead into the locker room at halftime.

In the third quarter, Berkeley College trailed 51-36 with 3:06 remaining in the period, but four consecutive made free throws by Ratliff brought the Knights to within 11. The game figuratively would be decided over the next 186 seconds, though, as the Vikings would go on a 9-2 run to finish the period and take a 60-42 edge into the fourth quarter.

Despite Villa Maria leading by as many as 20 points late in the third quarter, the Knights showed a resilient spirit, pulling to within just eight – 62-54 – with 5:03 remaining in the game. The Vikings would go back ahead by double digits just 15 seconds later, though, as Cray would make a basket and draw the foul. She would hit the free throw to put her team back up 65-54 with 4:48 left. Berkeley would only convert on two more field goals from there, though, as Villa Maria staved off a stingy Knights squad, eventually winning the game by 10 points.

Villa Maria shot the ball well, hitting on 26 of its 63 attempts from the floor (41.3 percent) while holding Berkeley College to just 33.9 percent shooting (20-59). The Vikings held a slight edge in the rebounding department, snatching 41 boards compared to 37 for the Knights. Villa Maria tallied 19 assists to Berkeley's 14, and the Vikings also won the turnover battle, committing 23 while forcing 27 Knights mistakes.

Berkeley College will return to action Wednesday evening, as the Knights will take to the road to battle the College of New Rochelle in a Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference contest. The game will take place at the Wellness Center on the campus of New Rochelle, and start-time is scheduled for 6:00pm. The Knights can clinch a spot in the upcoming HVIAC tournament with one more league win – or one conference loss a apiece by The King's College (NY) and Vaughn College.