Hot shooting, offensive boards lead Colonials to quarterfinals of Horizon League Tournament


Sol Castro and Phoenix Gedeon celebrate a PFW offensive foul. Photo credit: Justin Newton

Michael Deemer

MOON TOWNSHIP– For the first time since 2020, the Colonials hosted a playoff game and the first time in the Horizon League, taking on Purdue Fort Wayne.

Just in time for the postseason, head coach Charlie Buscaglia was back on the bench for the Colonials for the first time since Nov. 27 against Canisius. He gets the 100th win of his tenure here at Robert Morris.

“It’s a blessing to be here today,” Coach Buscaglia said. “This team is unbelievable. My adrenaline was running and these guys’ [adrenaline] was running too. It was a proud moment of how they responded. It wasn’t going to be easy, but we fought all the way through.”

The Colonials were in control from the start, jumping to a 7-0 start. That run was short-lived as Purdue Fort Wayne’s Ryin Ott scored the first eight Mastadon points independently.

The Colonials were on the boards early, too, with seven offensive rebounds in the first quarter, compared to Fort Wayne’s two.

With seconds winding down in the first quarter, Sol Castro drove to the rim to beat the buzzer to extend the Colonials’ lead to eight.

The Colonials were on fire to begin the second quarter. Simone Morris and Mackenzie Amalia buried two threes in two-and-a-half minutes into the quarter, forcing a Mastodon timeout.

Coming back from the break, Purdue Fort Wayne seemed to have found their footing. Two quick threes from Amellia Bromenschenkel and Shayla Sellers cut the deficit to seven.

The Colonials had a 7-0 run, including Simone Morris’ second three-ball with 4:23 remaining.

The Colonials were up 12 at the half thanks to Sol Castro’s 10 points before the break.

Coach Buscaglia spoke on the successful shooting.

“When you come out and are excited to play, I think shots go down a little bit more. You have to focus on the next possession,” Buscaglia said. “I think we did a good job with that early on and setting a tone; whether we had a mishap on defense, we made a mistake. This team continued to go to the next play.”

The Colonials never missed a beat coming back from the half. Just two minutes in, Esther Castedo stole the ball away from Shayla Sellers at midcourt, leading to a fast-break easy layup.

The Colonials held Purdue Fort Wayne without a bucket for over five minutes before Sellers finally hit a three-pointer to cut it to 10 after Bromenschenkel hit another three for the Mastodons to make it a 7-0 run.

After that, PFW’s Audra Emerson hit a three to put on an 8-3 run to snip the deficit to just five with a minute to go in the third.

The two teams traded threes before the buzzer sounded. Amalia hit one, then Aubrey Stupp hit one 12 seconds later.

In the final quarter, Mackenzie Amalia started RMU’s scoring, hitting her third three in as many tries.

Simone Morris hit her third three just minutes later. Purdue Fort Wayne coughed it up eight seconds later, leading to an easy Natalie Villaflor bucket.

On the next possession, Amalia hit another three, with an 8-0 run in just over a minute for the Colonials.

A Purdue Fort Wayne layup ended another five-minute field goal drought for the Mastodons.

With three minutes to go, an Amalia and-one jolted the Events Center crowd to its loudest all night to extend the Colonial lead to 15.

It was all Colonials from then on, winning 70-56.

Sol Castro had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Mackenzie Amalia went 5-6, including four threes with 15 points and Esther Castedo scored 14.

Purdue Fort Wayne’s Shayla Sellers had 16 points and Ryin Ott had 13 for the Mastodons.

The Colonials will travel to Indianapolis to take on top-seeded IUPUI on Thursday after this game where they never trailed.