Slagus leads Bucknell women by American 66-54 for NCAA berth

              Bucknell's Kaitlyn Slagus, center right, shoots with American's Cecily Carl, center, defending during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, March 17, 2019, in Lewisberg, Pa. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

LEWISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Kaitlyn Slagus scored 23 points to lead Bucknell to its school record 28th win, the Patriot League tournament championship and its fourth NCAA Tournament berth with a 66-54 win over American on Sunday.

Kyi English added 14 points and six assists and Ellie Mack had 11 points for the Bison (28-5), who are headed to the NCAAs for the second time in three seasons. Bucknell’s senior class, which includes Slagus and English, set a school and conference record with 102 wins. Slagus had seven rebounds and four blocks and was named tournament MVP.

Bucknell closed the game on a 10-2 run after Kaitlyn Marenyi’s 3-pointer pulled the Eagles (22-10) within 56-52 with three minutes to play. The Bison made 8 of 10 free throws while American was 1 of 7 from the field.

The clinching point came with two Slagus free throws with 54.2 seconds left. A basket by Elina Kosimies pulled American within seven with 1:20 to play and Indeya Sanders got a steal but she missed a layup. Slagus was fouled on the rebound and pushed the lead to 63-54.

Patriot League player of the year Cecily Carl led American with 16 points and Marenyi had 11.

The Bison swept the regular-season series, opening league play in January with a 71-56 win and then edging the Eagles 65-64 in March. American won 15 straight conference games with both teams finishing 16-2. Bucknell lost a late-season game to Holy Cross on a buzzer-beater but came back to set Patriot tourney records for fewest points allowed and margin of victory with a 66-31 win over the Crusaders in the semifinals.

The Eagles closed within 32-30 early in the third quarter before Abby Kapp and Ellie Mack had 3-pointers in a 9-0 run. American got the deficit down to six entering the fourth quarter and three straight possessions with 3-pointers cut a nine-point lead down to four.