Cabrini College’s women’s basketball team enjoyed an exceptional ride to the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament this winter.
And one local product, Phoenixville’s Amber Keys, played a major part in the Cavaliers’ success. The 5-foot-10 junior forward put up big numbers in scoring and rebounding for the deep and talented squad.
Cabrini made its first-ever run to the NCAA tourney.
Keys matched a career high with 22 points, including 15 in the second half, as the Cavaliers defeated fellow Pennsylvania foe Moravian, 76-61, in the opening-round contest in New Jersey. Keys also totaled 11 rebounds as part of her fifth double-double of the season, and she also tied her career high with three blocked shots.
The following night Keys finished with a team-high 21 points and 10 rebounds, but Cabrini fell to host Montclair State University, 78-73, in overtime. Montclair State entered the clash as the No. 8-ranked team in the nation.
“It’s been very exciting, especially because my freshman year we didn’t do as well,” said Keys during a recent telephone interview. “So to go back-to-back is very good for our program.”
Cabrini captured its second consecutive Colonial States Athletic Conference (CSAC) title.
“I would describe our team as very well-balanced,” said Keys. “We have people who are particularly strong in all parts of the game. We have people who can score, defend and so on. If someone is having a bad night, someone else can step up for us to get a ‘W.’”
Keys admitted she has made great strides since she left the Phoenixville basketball scene.
“Overall, I have made a 180-degree turn,” said Keys. “I lost a lot of weight, and that has helped with my speed and varied types of moves I can do. My strength is also up so it has just been an overall improvement.”
Keys and the rest of the Cavaliers were happy to be part of this historic season for Cabrini women’s basketball.
“We’re really excited,” she said. “We’ve never won an NCAA game so we are looking to make history at our school. So everyone’s really excited.”
During the CSAC playoffs, Cabrini faced Gwynedd-Mercy. The Griffins feature another Phoenixville product and former Keys teammate in Chandler DiFebbo.
“In high school, I played with Chandler for three years,” said Keys. “So to play against her the last couple years has been interesting. I have love for her and respect for her so much.”
So despite the Phantoms’ high school struggles on the court as a team in the tough Pioneer Athletic Conference under a number of different coaches, it is good to see that some of their players have moved on to do well at the next level.
Cabrini relied on an up-tempo style featuring a lot of transition basketball. So the deep bench provided another strength in allowing fresh people to run in and out of the lineup and push the ball up and down the court.
Cabrini closed out the season with a 24-5 overall record, maching the 1994-95 and 2012-13 teams with a program record 24 victories.