Lets Dance: Robert Morris captures NEC title, earns NCAA Tournament bid

What a difference a year makes.

Last March, the Robert Morris women’s basketball team did not make the conference tournament after wrapping up a dreadful 2012-13 campaign in which they finished 10th overall in the NEC.

Roughly 365 days later, after a current season of numerous ups and downs along the way, the Colonials made a 360-degree turnaround to capture the 2014 NEC Tournament championship after defeating cross-state rival St. Francis PA 78-64 Sunday afternoon at the Sewall Center.

Senior forward Artemis Spanou led all scorers with 30 points, 20 rebounds and six assists in a performance for the ages. She garnered tournament MVP honors, and was an All-Tournament Team selection along with freshman guard Anna Niki Stamolamprou.

“I’m extremely proud of these young women,” said head coach Sal Buscaglia. “This is the finest journey that I’ve been a part of as far as quality of kid, quality of student, quality of person.”

In the win, Robert Morris earned its first NCAA tournament berth since 2008, and the first of Spanou’s career.

“I’m extremely proud of this team,” said Spanou. “I’m really happy we made it. Cutting down this net and holding it here is unbelievable. I’m going to keep this little piece forever and remember this game and these four years that I’ve been here.”

Stamolamprou added 16 points and six rebounds. Senior forward Kelly Hartwell contributed seven points, although her presence was felt more on the defensive end. The Colonials held St. Francis to 30 percent shooting from the field, and outrebounded the Red Flash 47-33.

“Defense was the key to the game for us,” said Hartwell. “They’re a very up-tempo team. Down the stretch, the coaches had me guard Alli [Williams] or [Alexa] Hayward. I had confidence in my ability and my teammate’s ability to help me.”

Robert Morris will find out their seeding for the NCAA tournament Monday evening.