WALTHAM, Mass. – When the Bentley University Falcons take on the Jefferson University Rams Friday afternoon (2:30 pm, Stonehill College), there will be no shortage of experience on the sidelines. Combined, Bentley's Barbara Stevens and Jefferson's Tom Shirley have coached nearly 2,500 games and won 1,758 times.
Stevens, the fourth winningest coach in NCAA women's basketball history and the newest member of the 1,000-victory club, will enter her 30th NCAA tournament with the Falcons with a record of 1010-277. Meanwhile, Shirley owns a career mark of 748-347 with his win total third most in Division II annals. Since arriving at then-Philadelphia Textile in 1989, he's led the Rams to 599 wins.
Oddly enough, despite all their experience, these two titans of coaching have faced off against each other only three times previously. Each of those were November games, the most recent in 2015 when the Falcons prevailed against the university then known as Philadelphia, 69-60. The previous two were also Bentley victories, 72-54 in 2003 and 76-66 in 1996.
Bentley, ranked ninth in the WBCA Division II coaches poll and sixth in the D2SIDA media poll, will bring a 27-3 record into the first round of the Regional after capturing the Northeast-10 Conference championship in overtime Sunday, 73-72. The Falcons, who received 44 points off the bench, scored the final seven points of the fourth and the final five of OT to earn their 20th NE10 tournament crown.
Jefferson, a tenth-time NCAA participant, will be looking for its first regional win in 20 years. The Rams, 26-5 after falling to USciences in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Championship 64-56, have dropped three of their last eight, all to NCAA teams.
Bentley will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing in the 2017 NCAA Regional, which came after reaching the national semifinals in 2016. The Falcons shot only 38 percent against USciences and allowed a dozen three-pointers in a 73-66 loss.
Three of the Bentley starters should be the same with junior center Victoria Lux (Arundel, Maine/Thornton Academy) joined by senior guards Lauren Green (Damascus, Md./Damascus HS) and Macchi Smith (Los Angeles, Calif./Windward School). Rounding out the expected starting five for Stevens are graduate guard Becca Musgrove (Plainview, N.Y./St. Anthony's HS) and senior forward Cassie Smith (Edison, N.J./Metuchen HS).
Four of the five were recognized recently when the NE10 handed out its postseason awards. Lux, the team's top scorer (13.4) and rebounder (9.3), was voted to the All-NE10 first team while Musgrove, a Brown transfer who is nine points shy of 1,000, follows at 11.6 points and 2.1 steals per game. She was voted to the All-Conference second team.
Green, seven three-pointers away from becoming the third in program history to make 250 from deep, will be making her 124th start, fourth most ever by a Bentley player. She's a three-time All-Conference honoree, including third team this season.
Macchi Smith, who received honorable mention recognition, scored all seven of the Falcons' OT points Sunday, including the game-winning triple with 3.8 seconds to play. Third in D-2 in assist-turnover ratio, she contributes in a variety of ways, averaging 7.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.7 steals.
Bentley's deep bench features junior forward and NE10 Championship Most Outstanding Player Megan Lewis (Sevenoaks, England), senior guard Trevena Bennett (Union, N.J./Gill St. Bernard School) and sophomore forward Monica Viapiano (Holden/Holy Name HS).
Lewis averaged 21.5 points. 11 rebounds and two steals during the final two rounds of the conference championships, tying or setting a career scoring best in both contests. Over her last five, she's provided 13.8 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals while shooting 50 percent overall and 10 of 24 from three.
Viapiano, at 7.5 points and 4.8 rebounds, leads the Falcon non-starters in both those categories. Bennett scores 5.1 points a game and has made 37 of 40 free throws.
Jefferson has six players who produce between 8.0 and 13.2 points per game, three of whom garnered All-CACC honors. Redshirt sophomore guard Alynna Williams and redshirt junior guard Jessica Kaminski were both tabbed for the second team, and senior guard Rachel Day was voted to the third team.
Williams, just 5-foot-2, has shot 41 percent from three and 90 percent at the line en route to a team-best 13.2 scoring average. Kaminski follows at 12.3 and leads the Rams in rebounds (8.1), assists (109) and steals (55). She's a force on the offensive boards with 102.
Bentley has the advantage in most team statistical categories, with the exception of offensive rebounds (Jefferson 501, Bentley 438) and turnovers per game (JU 13.2, Bentley 14.9). The Falcons outscore their opponents by 15.8 a game, the Rams' scoring margin is +12.2, and the Falcons allow 58.7 points per game, 1.4 less than Jefferson. Day (11.7) and junior center Beverly Kum (10.5) also average in doubles in scoring.
The Bentley-Jefferson winner will meet the survivor of Friday's first game, number three USciences against six-seeded LIU Post. That regional semifinal will be Friday at 5 pm.