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Wagner steps up in the clutch for Merrimack College

CONWAY — After battling injuries most of her sophomore season, a finally healthy Allie Wagner is showing her Merrimack College teammates the sort of clutch player she has been throughout her career and it couldn't happen at a better time for the Warriors who have now pulled off back-to-back upsets in the first two rounds of the Northeast-10 Conference Championships. Wagner has found her offensive rhythm and hit several big shots along the way.

"It's been great," said proud mom, Lynore Wagner, who along with husband Ed, have attended the last two wins. "It's just like the days back in high school, Allie is having a ball."

On Friday night, the Merrimack women's basketball team, seeded No. 10, overcame a 15-point second half deficit to defeat the No. 7 Pace Setters on the road at Pleasant, N.Y., 75-70 in overtime. Wagner, a four-year standout for Kennett High and a former McDonald's All American from Center Conway, sealed the game in the overtime period with three free throws and she drew a charge in the final 15 seconds.

The win sett the stage for the Warriors to take on No. 2 Stonehill on Sunday in Easton, Mass., and once again Wagner rose to the occasion. Merrimack overcame another halftime deficit to top the Skyhawks 77-72 and earn just their fourth semifinal appearance in school history.

The win for the Warriors gives them an 12-win improvement on last year's win total and moves them on to the semifinals as they will travel to take on the Assumption Greyhounds, the No. 3 seeds, in Worchester, Mass., on Thursday at 7 p.m.

The Warriors used an 11-0 run early on in the second half to overcome their four-point halftime deficit and take the 52-45 lead. The Warriors hit four three pointers to start of the half including two big three's by Wagner. She finished with 13 points, second most on the team and three rebounds in the victory.

"She is playing unbelievable," Lynore said. "I think she played the best game of her college career on Sunday. She played 30 minutes in the game and was unreal. It's been a crazy ride, just like back in high school, she's having a blast and so are we."

The Warriors were led offensively by Chloe Rothman (Newton, Mass.) who finished with a game-high 23 points to go along with five assists and four rebounds while Wagner came off the bench and scored 13 second half points on 3-for-7 from behind the arc.

Against Pace on Friday, Merrimack trailed by 13 heading into the final five minutes of the game but the Warriors went on a 17-4 run to send the game into overtime. The Warriors trailed by two with the ball and under 20 seconds to play when Rothman took the ball into her own hands and drilled a game-tying jumper with four seconds to play in regulation.

The overtime period opened up with Rothman converting on a layup but the Setters fought back to take the three-point advantage with 1:20 to play. Wagner came out of the timeout by the Warriors and drilled a game-tying three pointer with a minute to play. Wagner then converted on three of four free throws to take the lead and then drew a charge to give Rothman two more freebies to give the Warriors the 75-70 win.

Merrimack, who lost both regular season games to Pace and Stonehill, fell 86-62 in its lone meeting with Assumption on Feb. 2 on the road. Wagner had eight points in that first meeting in 17 minutes of play.

Folks can watch the game live over the Internet on http://www.northeast10.tv/ — Northeast-10 Conference website.

No. 5 Franklin Pierce is at No. 1 Bentley in the other semifinal.

The championship game is scheduled for this Sunday at 1 p.m. at the site of the highest remaining seed.
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