WALTHAM, Mass. – Days after being selected as Northeast-10 Player of the Year, Bentley University junior forward Jen Gemma (Milton/Fontbonne Academy) showed why as she poured in a career-high 34 points as Bentley University edged Stonehill College, 54-50, in the quarterfinals of the NE-10 Women's Basketball Championships Sunday afternoon at the Dana Center.
In addition to propelling the Falcons into the NE-10 semifinals for the 33rd time in 35 championship appearances, the win was the 1,000th in Bentley women's basketball history. The Falcons became the first non-Division I team to reach that milestone and joined Tennessee, Louisiana Tech, James Madison, Stephen F. Austin, Texas and Stanford in the elite group.
Bentley, the number one seed out of the Northeast Division, will host Southern Connecticut State, the second seed out of the Southwest, in Thursday's semifinals (7:00 pm). The Falcons improved to 23-5 overall while winning their tenth consecutive postseason game and 13th straight in the conference championships.
Down by as many as seven early in the third quarter and by five with 1:38 remaining in the third, Bentley reclaimed the lead by running off eight straight points to go up 42-39 18 seconds into the fourth. Gemma scored on an inside basket, sophomore guard Macchi Smith (Los Angeles, Calif./ Windward School) converted a three-point play on a runner with 4.7 seconds left in the third and Gemma opened the fourth-quarter scoring with a one of her three trifectas.
Later in the quarter, a Gemma three-pointer from the right wing and one of two from the line by Smith made it a five-point Bentley lead with 4:16 to play.
Stonehill, which was seeded fifth out of the Northwest, answered back with a three from sophomore Courtney Walsh (Windham, N.H.) bringing the Skyhawks (15-14) within two with 3:56 to play. It stayed that way for more than three minutes until Stonehill sophomore Samantha Hyslip (Westford) hit a jumper in the paint to knot it at 50 with 49.1 seconds left.
Bentley senior co-captain Jane White (Amherst, N.H./Souhegan HS) sank the second of two free throws with 36.5 seconds left to break the tie. The Skyhawks had a chance to take the lead on the following possession, but the shot was off target and Gemma corralled the rebound, her ninth of the day.
Gemma was sent to the line with 11 seconds left and converted both for a three-point advantage. Stonehill junior Kelly Martin (Scituate) threw up a desperation three, Falcon freshman Vanessa Lux (Arundel, Maine/Thornton Academy) grabbed the errant shot and locked up the win with one of two from the line with 2.1 seconds left.
Bentley, which led by as many as five early, went scoreless for the final 6:25 of the first half to fall behind 27-22 at the break. Gemma accounted for 12 of the 22 with the rest of the squad just 3 of 20 from the floor.
Gemma continued to carry the Falcons in the third, scoring 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting while her teammates connected on just two of seven.
Gemma, who came within a point of Kim Brennan's school record, finished 13 of 22 overall while using a bevy of inside moves. Her three baskets from deep, in five attempts, was also a career-high, and she also made five of her seven free throws.
Lux was the only other Falcon to make more than one field goal, making two of seven overall for eight points.
Stonehill had the shooting edge (.380 to .352) and the rebounding advantage (36-32) but Bentley had four more made free throws (12-18 to 8-10) and four less turnovers (10-14). The Falcons capitalized on the turns, outscoring the visitors 15-4 in points off.
In the other quarterfinal games, New Haven upset Saint Anselm (71-52), Southern Connecticut topped Assumption by ten (70-60) and American International rallied in the second half for a 93-84 win over Adelphi.
Bentley, the number one team in the latest NCAA Division II East Region rankings, edged Southern in the team's only regular season meeting, 60-56.