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Queens stars’ play in Big Dance falls short of finals

By Joseph Staszewski

Former Archbishop Molloy guard Russ Smith saw his stellar four years at Louisville come to a close in the No. 4 Cardinals’ 74-69 loss to No. 8 Kentucky in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament Saturday.

Smith scored 23 points in his final game as a Cardinal, but was unable to move his team closer to a second-straight national championship March 29. His potential tying three-pointer came up short with four seconds left. The play was originally designed to get teammate Luke Hancock the ball, but Smith had to improvise.

“I tried to take a three-pointer to tie it up, and it just missed,” he said. “Everything went the right way, but Luke was just face-guarded and that was my first option. And I just decided to take a three-pointer.”

Smith was gracious in defeat by going to shake the hands of the Wildcats players in their locker room after the game. The Cardinals had captured the American Athletic Conference title earlier in the season and their senior class is one of the most successful in school history.

Smith ends his career averaging 14.3 points per game, including 18 points per contest his last two seasons. He chose to forgo the NBA draft to come back to Louisville for his senior season and is now projected to be a second-round pick this year. He couldn’t have been happier with his decision to return.

“I had a chance to have senior night at the Yum! Center and things like that,” Smith said. “Means a lot to me. I got a chance to help some freshmen and new guys develop and just become a person, become a changed man, that’s really important to me.”

Former Royals star Edwards, Penn State fall in Sweet 16: Ariel Edwards, a Christ the King alum, turned up her game in the NCAA tournament, but was unable to get the Nittany Lions to the Elite Eight.

The senior wing scored a team-high 22 points in No. 3-seeded Penn State’s 82-57 loss to No. 2 Stanford in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament Saturday. It was Edwards’ fourth 20-point game in the last six contests.

“My coaches kept telling me that they needed me to be aggressive this game,” Edwards said. “After I got a little bit of the jitters out, I felt like I settled in a little bit and was able to be more aggressive.”

Edwards was Penn State’s second leading scorer this season with 15.7 points per game to go along with 5.7 rebounds per contest. She is part of a senior class that finishes second in school history with a 101-31 overall record.

Penn State Coach Coquese Washington was pleased with Edwards’ play in the season finale.

“I think she played like she’s been playing the last 10, 12 games of the season,” Washington said. “When she’s really aggressive and attacking the basket, you know, and her mid-range game.”

Smith, Louisville fall short of Final Four: Former Christ the King guard Bria Smith and her team were the darlings in last season’s tournament, when they reached the national championship game.

But their trip back was cut short when No. 3 Louisville fell 76-73 to No. 4 Maryland at home in the Elite 8 Monday night.

Smith, a junior, did not score a point in the game, but averaged 7.6 points per contest this season.

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