BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – Sophomore forward Lauren Battista (North Easton, Mass./Oliver Ames HS) scored 16 of her game-high 22 points in the second half, including four free throws in the final 26 seconds, as the Bentley University women's basketball team edged Dowling College, 50-47, in the first round of the Bridgeport Holiday Classic Thursday afternoon at the Harvey Hubbell Gym.
Bentley, the top-ranked team in Division II (the most recent poll was conducted prior to the Falcons' Dec. 18 loss to C.W. Post), improved to 10-1 on the season while handing the Golden Lions (9-1) their initial loss of the campaign. Dowling was the last East Region team to fall this season and the second to drop from the ranks of the unbeaten in a matter of hours as Assumption was upset by New York Tech, 84-80, earlier Thursday.
A close game throughout with both offenses struggling most of the game, Bentley used baskets from junior forward Caleigh Crowell (Harwich, Mass./Worcester Academy) and Battista to go up eight, 46-38 with 3:11 to play.
However, a careless Falcon turnover led to a lay-up from senior guard Kelly Puwalski (Queens, N.Y.) and ignited a 7-0 Dowling spurt. Bentley came up empty on its next three possession as well (two turnovers and a missed shot), and the Lions took advantage with a driving lay-up by junior guard Seja Gamble (Newport News, Va.) and three free throws from senior post Sarah Schicher (Vienna, Austria).
Battista restored the Falcon lead to three, 48-45, by sinking a pair from the line with 25.2 seconds on the clock. Dowling ran off most of the remaining time before setting for a lay-up from junior guard Connie Simmons (Syosset, N.Y.) with :04.5 to play, and wasted two more seconds before again fouling Battista.
The six-footer again put her team up by three by knocking down both free throws. Dowling inbounded to half court, and a quick second pass to the corner was deflected out of bounds as the final horn sounded.
Neither team could get untracked during a first half that ended with Bentley up by seven, 21-14. Bentley made only seven of 36 shots before intermission, but that was considerably better than Dowling, which was just three of 24 in the half with only one field goal in the final 15 minutes.
Simmons brought her team to life offensively in the opening minutes of the second half with a 10-3 spurt (eight of the ten scored by Simmons) creating a 24-24 tie. Bentley countered with an 8-1 spurt, four points apiece from Crowell and Battista, and never trailed again.
Bentley, which shot only 24.6 percent for the game while committing 21 turnovers (the same number as Dowling), dominated on the glass. The Falcons corralled the ball 55 times, including 24 at the offensive end, and gave up only 36. Battista, who had her fourth double-double, led the way with 11, and junior guard Courtney Finn (Winthrop, Mass./Winthrop HS) followed with nine, along with eight points. Crowell also scored eight for the Falcons.
Dowling, which shot 46 percent in the second half to warm up to 30 percent for the game, was led by Simmons and Gamble, with 16 and 12 points, respectively.
The tournament will continue on Friday with Bentley facing the University of Bridgeport at 4 pm.