PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – A 28-win season for the Bentley University women's basketball team came to a disappointing and stunning end Friday afternoon as the Falcons suffered from an offensive drought for the second straight game and fell to Saint Anselm College, 59-40, in the first round of the NCAA Division II East Regional Friday afternoon at the University of the Sciences Morgan Arena.
A week after falling to Le Moyne College 67-45 in the Northeast-10 Championship game, Bentley incredibly scored only eight first-half points against the Hawks and was looking at a 27-8 deficit at the break. During the opening 20 minutes, the Falcons were just 3-of-24 (12.5 percent) with 14 turns.
The Falcons, who were the regional's number two seed and 3-0 against Saint Anselm this season, could never get untracked. They were just 2 of 14 in the first quarter and were outscored 14-2 in the second. By the time senior guard Megan Lewis (Sevenoaks, England) buried the team's first long ball of the contest with 7:14 left in the third quarter, Bentley was on the short end of a 30-8 score and had gone 10-and-a-half minutes with the scoreboard stuck on eight.
Women's Basketball Hall of Fame coach Barbara Stevens was pleased with her team's defense. "59 points should be enough for us to win, but unfortunately, the offense disappeared for the second straight game."
The same could not be said for the offense. "Early on, we were very rushed," said Stevens. "We had an aggressive attitude but were settling for quick shots. But credit Saint Anselm. They played hard and were so prepared defensively."
Bentley showed some offensive life late in the third quarter, an 11-2 bringing the Falcons within 14, 38-24 with 1:21 on the clock. That flurry included three-balls from sophomore guard Katie Meriggioli (Waunakee, Wis./Edgewood HS), Lewis and junior guard Maddy Springfield (Jaffrey, N.H./Conant HS).
The Falcons were still within 14 with 8:52 left in the fourth when Saint Anselm put the contest away with a 10-1 burst that made it 53-30. Half of those were scored by sophomore guard Peyton Steinman (Pittsfield, Mass.).
Bentley, which posted its second straight 28-4 season, played Saint Anselm even in the second half, with both teams scoring 32 points, but shot only .296 overall, including 5 of 22 from three, and attempted only five free throws. Turnovers were also an issue as they turned the ball over a season-high 27 times, resulting in 19 Hawk points.
Saint Anselm, on the other hand, shot 43 percent overall, made 6 of 17 from three and got to the line 13 times. The Hawks turned it over 21 times, but the Falcons rarely took advantage with only seven points off.
Steinman led all scorers with 21 points and also paced her team with seven rebounds. Junior center Shannon Ryan (Plattsburgh, N.Y.) followed with ten, all in the first half when she single-handedly outscored the Falcons.
For Bentley, the top scorers were Meriggioli with ten and senior center Victoria Lux (Arundel, Maine/Thornton Academy) with nine. Springfield was the game's top rebounder with eight.
Although a disappointing ending, it was an impressive four years for the Falcons with Lux and senior guard Amy McConnell (South Windsor, Conn./South Windsor HS) part of four teams that posted an aggregate record of 111-20 with four NCAA appearances and an Elite Eight trip in 2016.
"Being a Falcon was the best opportunity I've ever received," said McConnell. "I've grown so much and learned so much. It didn't end the way we wanted, but I couldn't be more happy to be a Falcon."
Meriggioli praised the team's two graduating seniors, McConnell and Lux. "I can't describe the leadership of the seniors, both on the court and off."
The team's third senior, Lewis, will be back next season for her final year of eligibility.