When Chelsea Danel was a senior at North Star, the Cougars were able to win a District 5-AA basketball title.
Now Danel, a senior at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, is a key contributor on a Falcons’ hoops squad which upset top-seeded Lebanon Valley 53-47 in the Commonwealth Conference championship on Saturday. It was the ninth title for the Falcons in 13 appearances.
“It was awesome to win the conference title especially at LVC, which is one of our big rivals,” Danel said. “My senior class had not won a conference title so this was one of the highlights of our careers.
“I was having flashbacks of the District 5 Tournament when we were cutting down the nets on Saturday. I haven’t been able to do that at Messiah because we finished second the last three years and it was pretty fun. It made it even cooler because it was on LVC’s court.”
Messiah had lost to Lebanon Valley twice during the regular season.
“We lost to them the first time before Christmas and we stayed with them most of the game and lost it at the end,” the former Cougar said. “In the second game at their place, I don’t think that we ever led. We didn’t play well at all and we just didn’t click on offense.
“We made some key adjustments on defense and threw something at them they weren’t expecting in the championship and got them out of their routine. It was a really fun game.”
With the win, Messiah (20-7) punched its ticket to the NCAA Division III tournament. This will be the school’s 16th trip to the dance and the fourth time for Danel, who earned MVP honors in the conference tournament, scoring 12 points in the title game.
“I’ve been to the NCAA Tournament all four years since I have been here, but we made it with an at-large bid before and this year we got the automatic bid because we won the conference championship,” Danel said. “I’m definitely really excited to be going in my senior year and knowing we’ll still be playing, but the pressure is on because if you lose, you’re out.”
Messiah College will play Randolph-Macon College today at host Farleigh Dickinson University of Florham in New Jersey in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
“Our coach said that it will be a contrast between our team and theirs,” Danel said. “They are strong offensively and score 70 or 80 points a game while we pride ourselves on defense.”
Danel, a health and physical education major, also was named an All-Commonwealth Conference selection for the season last week, earning second-team honors for the first time in her college career.
Fellow senior Taylor Miller was also a second-team selection.
“Our team had two players selected and one other team had two while everyone else had just one chosen to the conference teams,” Danel said. “We didn’t really have one player that we depended on this year. We had a lot of players who worked together and played as a team.
“With the great conference players that we have, it’s an honor for me to be selected,” Danel added.
The 5-foot-6 senior guard has set career-best marks in points (12.2 ppg), 3-point shooting (36.9 percent), free-throw shooting (88.4 percent), rebounds (3.5 rpg), assists (4.0 apg) and minutes (32.8 mpg). She also led the conference in total assists (105).
Danel said that it has been a very special experience playing at Messiah.
“This is a Christian college and it’s been so much more than basketball,” the former North Star athlete said. “We are encouraged to spread our faith and raise awareness and spread the gospel.
“I’ve had the opportunity to not only play basketball with my teammates, but also to perform activities with them off the court. It will help all of us prepare for life after school.”
Cory Isenberg is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at Twitter.com/CoryIsenbergTD.