GARDEN CITY, N.Y. – Cold-shooting Bentley University was denied in its bid for a 20th Northeast-10 Conference women's basketball championship Sunday afternoon as Adelphi University took the lead midway through the second quarter and went on to record a 67-59 win in the NE10 title game at the Center for Recreation and Sport.
Bentley, which had won 14 in a row this season and its last 17 conference tournament games, dropped to 26-5 overall. The Falcons, ranked 12th in Division II, almost assuredly will receive an at-large bid when the field for the 2017 NCAA Division II Championships is announced at 10 pm tonight. Adelphi, ranked 14th, ran its record to 26-4 and will receive the conference's automatic bid to the NCAAs.
Senior All-Conference forward Sierra Clark (Hughesville, Md.), who was selected as the championship MVP, led Adelphi with 19 points, ten rebounds and three assists. Sophomore teammate Niajah Morgan (Bronx, N.Y.) followed with 17 points off the bench for the Panthers.
Bentley was led by senior All-America forward Jen Gemma (Milton, Mass./Fontbonne Academy), the only Falcon with a first-quarter field goal. The Falcons' all-time leading scorer finished with 21 points, ten rebounds, two steals and two assists.
Despite receiving almost no offense from anyone but Gemma in the opening ten minutes, Bentley trailed by just two after one, 16-14. Gemma, who had 12 in the quarter, was four of six from the floor while the remainder of the squad was 0-for-9.
Adelphi countered with a 12-2 run that produced the only 10-point differential of the game, 33-23, and put the home team in front for good. Clark scored seven of the 12 and Morgan drilled a three from the right wing.
By the break, it was a five-point spread, 35-30, after Gemma fueled a 7-2 run over the final 3:15 with five points.
The Falcons made it a one-possession game three times in the second half, but on each occasion, the Panthers had the answer, including early in the fourth after Falcon sophomore forward Victoria Lux (Arundel, Maine/Thornton Academy) brought her team within two at 53-51. Adelphi countered with threes from Morgan and senior Sierra Schrader (Hopedale, Mass.), making it 59-51 with 8:42 to play.
Bentley sophomore Amy McConnell (South Windsor, Conn./South Windsor HS) dropped in a three with 5:13 remaining to bring the Falcons within five. There would be only one more basket by the visitors, another McConnell triple, as Adelphi closed out the game with a 6-3 spurt.
Bentley, the NE10 leader in many offensive categories, was held to 33 percent shooting, including 27 in the first and 22 in the fourth. The Falcons were only 5 of 20 from deep and misfired on nine of 23 free throws. Meanwhile, Adelphi shot 45 percent overall, 43 percent from three and 85 percent from the line (11-13), and also finished with a 41-35 rebound advantage.
Gemma, who boosted her Bentley record point total to 2,136, made eight of 16 shots overall and five of eight from the line. Junior guard Macchi Smith (Los Angeles, Calif./Windward School) was the only other Falcon in doubles. She finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and five assists, and McConnell provided nine points and two steals off the bench.
Gemma was named to the All-Tournament team along with Clark, Morgan, Adelphi senior forward Calli Balfour (Hopewell Junction, N.Y.) and Saint Anselm's Candace Andrews.
Bentley had won five of the previous six Northeast-10 championships, including last year's. The loss was the team's second of the year to Adelphi with both coming on the road.
The field for the NCAA Division II tournament will be announced online tonight at 10 pm at