'Saders cannot stop sharpshooting Kirk; Senior guard (21 points) propels Eagles.

Byline: Jay Gearan

WORCESTER - It would have been the perfect scene for a Sunday afternoon upset: A fired-up, enthusiastic crowd at Hart Center, hundreds wearing white-out "Sader Nation" T-shirts while cheering on the Holy Cross women's basketball team in a televised game. Drama with a surprising twist.

Reality TV, however, prevailed. The favored American University Eagles, landing here with the best record in the Patriot League and its top scorer, Michelle Kirk, won the ratings battle, especially during the game's final minutes, defeating the Crusaders, 64-51.

Kirk, a 6-foot junior with a smooth shooting touch, scored 21 points. She needs 18 more for 1,000, a milestone surely on her mind as she and her team flew back to Washington, D.C. last night.

The Crusaders (5-15 overall, 1-4 Patriot League) played one of their best games of the season, paced by Briana McFadden's 16 points and Meredith Ward's 11.

The game, which was broadcasted on CBS College Sports Television, was tied, 46-46, with eight minutes left after Holy Cross' Tayana Carper buried a 3-pointer from the left corner. The Eagles outscored the Crusaders from that point to the buzzer, 18-5.

"We expected a real battle," American coach Matt Corkery said. "Bill (Gibbons) always has his team prepared. We've come here enough times and gotten our butts kicked, so it's a very fortunate situation when we can come out of here with a win."

The Eagles (12-7) are winning a lot this year, as even with only nine players in uniform due to injuries, they notched their sixth straight victory. American's 5-0 Patriot League start is the best in school history.

"We got good shots at the basket down the stretch and we made them," said Corkery, whose team is blessed with a savvy point guard in Raven Harris, who scored 15 points, and talented power forward Liz Leer who also had 15. The final dagger for the Crusaders came from Harris, whose long-range 3-pointer made it 60-50 with 3 minutes left.

Holy Cross captain Bethany O'Dell, the team's leading scorer, was hampered by leg cramps and held to limited minutes, scoring only two points.

"Bethany is our best player, and I feel so badly for her," said Holy Cross coach Gibbons. "She can go for a couple of minutes and then the pain comes back."


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