So much for first-time jitters.

On a team making its third consecutive trip to the USCAA Women’s Division II Basketball Tournament, the freshmen came up big Thursday night.

Gabby Foy and Samantha Bruce helped lead the Mustangs to a 79-58 win over Warren Wilson at Penn State Fayette. It was the first-ever quarterfinal win for CMCC in a national tournament.

“This is a huge monkey off our backs,” said CMCC coach Andrew Morong, whose team was the top seed last year and lost in the opener. “We get to enjoy this for another hour until we go to bed. Then we’ll be back to work tomorrow morning to get ready for our Final Four game and have a chance to play in the National Championship game.”

CMCC (23-2) advances to Friday’s game at 9 p.m. and will play the winner of the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup Thursday between Berkeley College of New York and Penn State-Beaver.

Bruce, a former Madison standout, led CMCC with 23 points and was the spark late in the first half that helped the Mustangs take the lead at halftime. Susie French scored 20 and added eight rebounds while Foy added 11, including five early points to help the Mustangs get going. Foy, the former Mt. Blue standout, also had seven rebounds.

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“Samantha was really huge for us off the bench,” Morong said. “That’s why she’s here. She played in all these big games in high school and made some big shots in championship games. She just stepped up at the highest level.”

Lilvia Bradbury led the Warren Wilson (15-10) with 20. Jacina Hall added 10.

CMCC held a 39-33 lead at the half, aided by 13 points by Bruce. Then the Mustangs outscored Warren Wilson 40-25 in the second half, getting a stronger defensive effort that forced 11 turnovers and held the Lady Owls to just 29 percent shooting from the floor.

“I think the first half we got a little loose with the ball,” said Morong, whose team had 11 turnovers in the first half to Warren Wilson’s 14. “The second half we only had five turnovers. We forced a lot of turnovers, but then we’d turn the ball right back over. By limiting that, we limited their chances to score. We just created a lot more opportunities for ourselves, and the girls did a good job finishing. When we didn’t finish, we were getting the rebounds. Getting 25 offensive boards was huge.”

Foy gave the Mustangs the early lead. She opened the game with a 3 and  CMCC’s first five points. A Hannah Champagne three-point play had the lead up to 8-3 but Warren Wilson tied it at 9-9 on a Bradbury layup.

The Mustangs went ahead on a Laura Soohey layup and baskets by Bruce, French and Foy helped extend the lead to 23-16. Bradbury led the Lady Owls back to within 23-20, but Bruce scored nine points to end the half and French added a pair of late baskets that gave CMCC a 39-33 lead at the half.

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In the second half, Warren Wilson got as close as 39-37 on a Bradbury layup. CMCC then ran off nine consecutive points and held the Lady Owls scoreless for five minutes. After a French free throw, Maggie McConkey scored on a layup. Then Lexi Larson and French hit back-to-back 3’s. to make it 48-37.

A Bradbury basket got Warren Wilson within nine, 52-43, with 11:42 left. CMCC answered that with 3’s from Jaime Swart and  Foy. The Mustangs padded the lead with baskets from Bruce and Champagne as well as free throws from McConkey, Bruce and Jasmine Ramos. Ramos added eight rebounds while Soohey led the team with nine boards.

“(Bruce) went 9-for-11 from the line,” Morong said. “She was cool, calm and collected. That was great, especially for a freshman.”

A Suzie Ashford 3 cut the lead to 69-57 with 3:05 left, but the Mustangs continued to hold the lead in the closing minutes. French and Ramos scored baskets late in the half and free throws from Bruce and Soohey helped seal the win.

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