Panthers’ height advantage sinks Dolphins playoff hopes

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There aren’t many games, yet alone playoff games, that a team wins after being outrebounded by 30, shooting 33 percent from the field, committing 29 fouls and turning the ball over 23 times.

So it was no surprise that the College of Mount Saint Vincent Dolphins ended their season with a 71-57 loss to the College at Old Westbury Panthers in the semifinals of the Skyline Conference Tournament.

“We got outrebounded by 30, I think that’s really what killed us on the boards,” said Christina Barone, who led the Dolphins with 20 points and six assists. “That was one of our main problems, and we just had a problem with our offense. We couldn’t really execute what we wanted to do.”

For Barone, a senior who was named the Skyline Conference’s Player of the Year on Monday, the loss ends an illustrious college career that featured two trips to the Skyline Conference Championship Game, one of which resulted in a win in 2015. But the last two seasons for Barone and the Dolphins ended in a semifinals defeat at the hands of the Panthers.

“It definitely was frustrating,” Barone said. “Going in, we knew that last year they came to us and beat us, so we wanted to go to them and do the same thing that they did to us, but it didn’t come out in our favor.”

At the end of the first quarter it was hard to predict the game would end so one-sided. The Dolphins trailed 13-12 after the first, but the Panthers outscored them, 22-12, in the second quarter to carry a 35-24 lead into halftime.

Mount Saint Vincent’s lack in size plagued it all game. Led by 6-foot-2 center Charlotte Renker’s 17 rebounds, the Panthers enjoyed a rebounding margin of plus 30 on the night. The Panthers imposed their will inside, scoring 34 points in the paint and grabbing 31 offensive rebounds.

When their second chances didn’t fall, the Panthers went to work on the free throw line, where they had 38 attempts compared to just 11 for the Dolphins.

But despite being dominated on the glass and at the free throw line, and shooting below 35 percent for most of the contest, the Dolphins still managed to hang in the game. Thanks to a defense that forced 26 turnovers from the Panthers, the Dolphins found themselves down 55-48 with less than seven minutes to play.

“I was definitely surprised because we weren’t really having the best game and we were still kind of right there,” Barone said.

However, as they did throughout most of the game, the Dolphins went cold at the wrong time. They would not score for the next four minutes and the Panthers used a 6-0 run to extend the lead to 13 points. With only three minutes remaining, the lead would prove insurmountable for the Dolphins who were eliminated once again by the Panthers in the Skyline semis.

The Dolphins end their season at 18-9 and with an uncertain future, as school officials contemplate what to do with interim head coach Brian Lavelle, and the team loses five seniors. But despite the uncertainty, Barone believes her teammates will carry on the winning culture she has helped build at Mount St. Vincent.

“I think it’s looking good still,” Barone said of the future of the Dolphins program. “We still have a lot of players that are on the team, so I think they’re just going to have to step up and play the way they’ve been playing.”

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