WALTHAM, Mass. – After the two regular season meetings weren't decided until the final minute, the Bentley University women's basketball team established control early in the quarterfinals of the Northeast-10 Conference Championships and cruised to a 76-43 win over Merrimack College Sunday afternoon at the Dana Center.
Bentley, which attained the 23rd 25-win season in program history, led 22-9 after the opening quarter and 50-17 at the half en route to the 13th consecutive win this season and 16th straight in NE10 championship tournament action. The 25-4 Falcons, seeded number one in the NE10's Northeast Division, will host third-seeded Saint Anselm in a semifinal match-up Thursday at 7 pm.
Bentley, ranked 15th nationally in Division II, was led by junior guard Lauren Green (Damascus, Md./Damascus HS), senior All-America forward Jen Gemma (Milton/Fontbonne Academy) and sophomore forward Victoria Lux (Arundel, Maine/Thornton Academy) with the trio combining for 48 points on 18-of-30 shooting before all three sat out the final stanza.
The opening quarter for the Falcons included a 20-5 run after Merrimack scored the game's first basket with most of those coming off turnovers. The Warriors lost the ball ten times in the period and Bentley turned those into 15 points.
Green, who finished with a game-high 19 points, picked up seven markers in the first without missing a shot (a baseline jumper, the first of her five three-pointers and two free throws).
Bentley, playing on the university's 100th birthday, poured it on in the second as it shot 80 percent overall (8-10, including 4-5 from three) and made all eight of its free throws. Meanwhile, the Falcon D surrendered only eight points on 4-of-18 shooting. Those numbers combined for a 28-8 advantage in the second with Green (three triples) single-handedly outscoring the Warriors.
The Falcons opened the third period by making their first three shots, producing a 57-19 lead two minutes into the quarter.
Bentley's lead peaked at 41, 76-35 with 3:44 left, before Merrimack closed out the game by scoring the final eight points.
Green, who moved to within ten points of reaching 1,000 for her career, finished six of nine overall from the floor, five of seven from deep and two of two from the foul stripe. She also provided four rebounds and three assists.
Gemma, the NE10 Player of the Year for the second straight season, followed with 15 points, three rebounds and three rebounds. She finished the game with exactly 2,100 career points, 12 shy of Lauren Battista's school record. Lux was the third Falcon in crack double digits, providing 14 points on 6-of-9 accuracy and five rebounds.
Bentley also received nine points, five assists and two steals off the bench from sophomore guard Amy McConnell (South Windsor, Conn./South Windsor HS).
Bentley shot .532 overall, made nine of 13 from downtown and buried 17 of 22 free throws. Merrimack, on the other hand, was limited to 31 percent accuracy, including just 3 of 17 from three, and 11 free throw attempts, all coming in the second half.
The Falcons also had the advantage in rebounds (34-25), points in the paint (24-10), turnovers (19-22), points off turns (24-12), assists (20-4) and fast break points (10-2).
Merrimack, which finished its season at 13-15, featured sophomore guard Lexi Martin (Franklin) with 14 points and five steals.
Saint Anselm advanced with a 76-53 win over American International, the Hawks' first NE10 tournament since 2004. Candace Andrews led the way with 26 points, seven assists and four steals.
Bentley swept the Hawks during the regular season, winning 67-54 on Nov. 30 and 92-66 on Feb. 18.
In the other quarterfinals, Adelphi pulled away in the fourth for a 69-52 win over Southern Connecticut and Le Moyne ousted Assumption, 62-54.