Past Features

February 20, 2007 (Vol. 5, No. 2)

Lehman Wins 2007 CUNYAC Title, Earns NCAA Automatic Bid

Lehman College women's basketball team celebrates championship win at the 2007 CUNY Athletic Conference/ Con Edison Women's Basketball Championship.
Lehman College women's basketball team celebrates championship win at the 2007 CUNY Athletic Conference/ Con Edison Women's Basketball Championship.

The third-seeded Lehman College Lightning pulled off a stunning rally against the defending champion and top-seeded Baruch College Bearcats for a 52-51 victory in the championship game of the 2007 CUNY Athletic Conference / Con Edison Women's Basketball Championship, held February 23 at City College. The Lightning defense stifled Baruch over the last 11 minutes, scoring 14 of the last 16 points to win the team's first-ever CUNYAC Tournament.

Lehman senior guard Katherine Santiago (New York, NY / Norman Thomas), a CUNYAC Second Team All-Star, sparked an 8-0 run with a lay-up off a drive down the middle 22 seconds later. This was followed, 20 seconds after that, by a steal and feed for a lay-up by sophomore guard Sally Nnamani (Warwick, NY / Warwick), the CUNYAC Player of the Year. Lightning junior guard Kim Kelly (Brooklyn, NY / Paul Robeson) added a basket with 9:29 to go and sophomore forward Monique Sampson (Bronx, NY / Cathedral), who was named CUNY Conference Tournament MVP, wrapped up the spurt with a jumper off the glass to cut the deficit to just three points, 49-46, with 7:44 left.

Sampson again sliced the margin to three points, 51-48, with a lay-up 20 seconds later. Santiago made a steal and breakaway lay-up to pull Lehman to within one point, 51-50, with 5:54 remaining. Her next basket, with 4:36 to go, put the Lightning team ahead 52-51 for its first—and only—lead of the night.

The next few minutes saw fierce defensive stands, and offensive stagnation, from both teams. The Bearcats had one last chance to win after Nnamani missed a jumper with 17 seconds left, but Sampson blocked Jody Trapp's drive into traffic and was fouled, grabbing the rebound with two seconds on the clock. She missed the free throw, but Baruch could not get off a shot as time expired. Lehman scored the final six points of the evening.

Sampson, whose energy down the stretch fueled the Lightning's comeback, was named CUNYAC Tournament MVP after scoring 10 points, pulling down nine rebounds, and making the critical, game-saving block. Lehman junior guard Tiara Carroll joined her on the CUNYAC All-Tournament Team by adding 14 points, while Santiago contributed 10 points, four assists, and six steals. Nnamani finished with eight points and seven rebounds.

"There's nothing better than this," said Santiago, a former CUNYAC Rookie of the Year. "We won this game with our heart. Along with my teammates, I've come full circle from my first two seasons playing for Lehman."

"The unsung heroes made this win happen for us tonight," said Lightning bench boss Eric Harrison, the CUNYAC Coach of the Year. "Monique Sampson and Tiara Carroll played great in the second half, and we won in spite of a poor shooting night."

Lehman (19-9) will now advance to the NCAA Division III Championship for the first time in the College's history. The team will play against the University of Scranton at Scranton in the first round of the tournament on Friday, March 2.