By Todd Stanford
For The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE -- If Susquehanna's goal Saturday was to stop Scranton's Meredith Mesaris -- the Landmark Conference's leading scorer -- they largely succeeded: Mesaris was held to half of her season scoring average.
It was the rest of the Royals who gave the Crusaders fits.
Scranton got a combined 24 points from reserves Jaclyn Gantz and Christina Hiltunen, as they led the Royals to an 82-54 victory at O.W. Houts Gymnasium.
With the victory, Scranton (15-6, 7-3) remained alone in third place in the Landmark Conference, behind Moravian and Catholic. Susquehanna (7-14, 2-8) almost certainly lost any chance of gaining the fourth and final spot for the conference playoffs.
"We wanted to get the game in transition, so we could get easy scoring chances," Crusaders coach Jim Reed said. "(But) even on a made basket, we were in a retreat (mind set). I don't think any team can press them from here on out."
Susquehanna dropped a 74-51 decision to the Royals back in December. On Saturday, Scranton had two of its top players back who didn't participate in that earlier contest: seniors Katherine Torto and Tayler Pallotta. In Saturday's rematch, that duo combined for 10 points and five rebounds.
"They have a very deep rotation," Reed said. "When you add those two kids, they can go 10-12 deep."
Indeed, by halftime, Scranton had almost as many points from its bench (17) as Susquehanna had total (18). That charge was lead by Gantz, a freshman who came in averaging 2.6 points per game. She nailed three 3-pointers in the first half en route to a team-high 14 points for the game. As a team, the Royals made 9 of 17 attempts from beyond the arc.
"They are a good perimeter shooting team, a good 3-point shooting team," Reed said. "They have a lot of people who can shoot the three."
By contrast, the Crusaders made just 3 of 15 three-point attempts in the game. Overall, they shot 32.3 percent from the floor.
One of the few bright spots for Susquehanna was the play of junior guard Mariah Monahan, who finished with a game-high 20 points.
"She's come into her own," Reed said of the Towanda graduate. "She's really developed as a good point guard."
Between Gantz, Hiltunen, and forward Erin Boggan -- who finished with a team-high 14 points and game-high seven rebounds -- Scranton jumped out to an early lead and never relinquished it. Susquehanna never led. The Royals had a double-digit lead by the 8:10 mark of the first half (on a layup by the 6-foot-1 Mesaris, who finished with nine points), and never let their advantage dip below double figures again. It was 43-18 at halftime, and both teams cleared their benches in the second half.
"We were trying to develop depth of our own," Reed said. "We have to get these kids some experience."
NOTES: Susquehanna's Gina Palazzi and Shannon Grunwald grabbed seven rebounds apiece to share game-high honors with Boggan. ... The Crusaders committed 23 turnovers. ... Susquehanna, which defeated Goucher on Wednesday night, has won back-to-back games just once this season.