PHILADELPHIA – In a game played within two possessions until there was 1:53 remaining, the No. 19 University of the Sciences women's basketball team finally pulled away from Caldwell to advance to its second straight Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) Championship Game, defeating the Cougars 61-52 in the CACC Semifinals at Jefferson on Saturday afternoon.
USciences (27-3) will attempt to become the first team to win back-to-back CACC Championships since Holy Family in 2012-13 when it takes on the host Jefferson tomorrow at 12 p.m.
With the win, the Devils tied last year's single-season program record with its 27th victory.
With neither team leading by more than four for the first 31 minutes of play, University of the Sciences began its push when Sarah Abbonizio's 3-pointer made the score 36-35 with 2:34 left in the third quarter, giving the Devils the lead for good.
The two teams traded baskets to close out the third quarter, but USciences scored the first five points in the opening 1:36 of the fourth to take the game's largest lead, 43-37, when Abbonizio nailed yet another triple.
Caldwell did however score the next five points to cut the deficit to one, 42-43, and also made it a single-possession game, 44-46, with 4:57 to go.
After over two minutes of scoreless play, Jordan Vitelli came through with the game-turning 3-pointer to reestablish a cushion, 49-44, with just 2:38 remaining.
Caldwell could not get closer than five from there as Irisa Ye made driving layups on back-to-back possessions, and University of the Sciences closed out the victory by making 8-of-8 free throws over the final 33 seconds.
Vitelli's clutch shot made USciences' history as it was the sophomore's 70th 3-pointer of the season, breaking Jessica Sylvester's single-season program record set in 2013-14.
Vitelli and Ye were two of the three Devils in double-figures with 15 and 13 points, respectively.
Vitelli made a game-high three trifectas and also grabbed four rebounds, while Ye came off the bench to make 5-of-8 field goals and record career-highs of six rebounds and four assists.
Alex Thomas led all players with 17 points and three steals, and fell two boards shy of her second career double-double with a new season-best.
Abbonizio and Laura Trisch scored eight points each, with Trisch falling two points shy of her fourth career double-double after grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds.
University of the Sciences outrebounded Caldwell 37-27, including grabbing 17 offensive boards for its third-highest total this season. That helped the Devils outscore the Cougars 16-6 in second chance points.
The game was played within four points in the first half, with USciences holding four four-point leads in the first quarter, the last at 14-10 with 2:20 showing.
The Cougars scored the next six points to take its second lead 1:59 into the second and aside from one tie, the Cougars would be in front until Vitelli's last minute tied the score at 24-24 heading into the break.
Caldwell came out of the locker room with the first four points for its second four-point advantage, its largest, but once again neither team could create separation as a Cougar layup in the final minute made the score 38-37, USciences, with 10 minutes to go.