By Laura Amato
History came to a halt Tuesday night, as the Queens College women’s basketball team came up short in the NCAA D-II Elite Eight.
The No. 5 Knights fell to No. 4 Harding 73-69, marking the end of a historic season for the squad, which won its first-ever East Regional title earlier this month.
It was a disappointing finish for the team, but the group couldn’t be too frustrated, proud of everything it had accomplished on the court this season.
“It means a lot, which I know is the answer you’re probably expecting, but it’s true,” Knights coach Elizabeth Naumovski said. “It’s a great accomplishment and we’re just happy to be here in the national spotlight.”
Queens did its best to rally late – coming back from a double-digit deficit in the third quarter – to make it a two-point game with just 23.7 left in regulation.
As per usual, the Rowland sisters shouldered much of the point-scoring load, with Madison and MacKenzie doing a bit of everything. The duo combined to score 40 of the team’s first 67 points.
It wasn’t quite enough, however, as the Knights were whistled for a travel after making it a one-possesion game. Harding’s A’ndrea Haney connected on both free throws after Queens was forced to foul on the next play and the Knights weren’t able to recover from the final-second miscue.
While the Knights were frustrated with their finish, their season was still almost picture-perfect.
Queens made its first Elite Eight appearance in school history and the dominance of the squad was unquestioned, particularly when it came to those players with Rowland emblazoned across their back.
Madison Rowland was named D2CCA East Region Player of the Year as well as ECC Player of the Year, the second of her career, while MacKenzie was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.
The two seniors wrapped up their career by leading the Knights to a program-record 27 wins this season, breezing by the previous mark of 24 in the 2008-09 season.
“I’m grateful and thankful for all our seniors,” Naumovski said. “They’ve meant so much to this program.”
“There were two seniors that graduated last year as well,” Naumovski added. “So it was a core of four or five kids who committed to the program when we weren’t very good. They bought into me and the vision and I think it’s just a really special group.”
MacKenzie Rowland finished with a game-high 23 points and 10 rebounds, while Madison added 19 and junior Merrick Rowland added eight points of her own, including a pair of shots from behind the arc.
The Knights struggled to slow down Harding’s offense early on in the second half as the Lady Bison shot 47.5 percent in the postseason matchup, including 50 percent from behind the arc.
Queens College would have loved a run at a title, would have cherished another shot at history, but the Knights have started something important this season – they’ve laid the groundwork for the future.
“I can tell you, personally, it’s starting to sink in, what we’ve accomplished,” Naumovski said. “I don’t think the [team] will really appreciate it until the season really feels over or even a few years from now. But I think they know what they’ve done.”