WALTHAM, Mass. -- The Bentley University women's basketball team had their own "big three" Friday night as the Falcons reached the championship game of the Northeast-10 Conference Playoffs for the 22nd time in the event's 30-year history.
Freshman forward Lauren Battista (North Easton/Oliver Ames HS), senior guard Kim Brennan (Locust Valley, N.Y./Locust Valley HS) and sophomore guard Courtney Finn (Winthrop/Winthrop HS) nearly matched The College of Saint Rose's total by themselves, combining for 58 points in the Falcons' 67-59 win over the visiting Golden Knights.
Battista filled the stat sheet with 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists, and Brennan followed with 19 points. Finn established a new career scoring best with 17 points, and also collected eight rebounds.
The victory over the fourth-seeded Golden Knights lifted the NE-10 regular season champions into Sunday's Northeast-10 title game. Fourteen-time champion Bentley (the most recent coming in 2005) will host two-time defending titlist Franklin Pierce University at 1 pm at the Dana Center. The Ravens (23-6) earned the trip to Waltham with a 90-75 win over Assumption College.
The two teams were never separated by more than three points over the first 14 minutes with the lead changing hands a half-dozen times over that stretch.
A driving lay-up by Finn with 5:51 left, in the midst of a 13-3 Falcon run, made it a two-possession game for the first time, 27-22, and Bentley went on to stretch the lead to seven at 31-24. That surge included four points from Battista and three by Brennan.
Three Saint Rose free throws in the final minute of the half reduced the Falcon advantage to four points at the break, 31-27.
Bentley used a 7-0 run, fueled by Battista, Brennan and Finn, to take its biggest lead of the night., 45-35, with 14:36 left in the second half. Battista hit a pair from the line, Brennan converted a three-point play off a fast break, and Finn scored off a feed from Battista.
The Falcons were scoreless for the next five-plus minutes, and Saint Rose junior post Ali Johnson (Falls Church, Va.) took advantage, scoring six unanswered to get her team back to within four, 45-41.
The Bentley lead remained between four and eight points until a drive to the hole by freshman forward Jacqui Brugliera (Fitchburg/Wachusett Reg. HS) and one of two free throws by Battista make it 60-51 with 2:38 to play.
Saint Rose wasn't done, using a triple from senior Amy Voelkel (Mohegan Lake, N.Y.) and a Johnson lay-up to get it back down to four, 60-56 with 1:22 left.
Bentley used almost the entire allotted time on the ensuing possession, with a driving lay-up by Brennan with the shot clock down to one making it 62-56 with 51.5 seconds left. Following a defensive stop and a Brugliera rebound, Brennan extended the lead to eight with two free throws with 37 seconds left.
Following a Golden Knight triple, Bentley locked up the outcome with two free throws from Finn and one more from junior guard Katherine Goodwin (Goffstown, N.H./Governors Academy).
Battista, who was one shy of her career scoring best, had an outstanding shooting night, hitting nine of 13. Brennan pushed her career point total to 1633 while making 6 of 12 from the floor. Finn bettered her previous scoring best of 12 points that she had tied in each of the team's last two games.
Johnson led four double-figure scorers for Saint Rose, finishing with 19 points along with nine rebounds, five assists, three blocks and a steal. Voelkel followed with 13, and also had nine boards.
Bentley shot 46 percent overall despite connecting on just two of 11 from three. Saint Rose was limited to 37 percent and forced into 18 turnovers, four more than the Falcons had. The home team had the edge at the line with the Falcons 17 of 22, including 13 of 16 in the second half, and the Golden Knights 12 of 16.
Bentley and Franklin Pierce will be meeting in the title game for the second time in three seasons. The two clubs split during the regular season with each winning at home, the Falcons 90-72 back in December and the Ravens 90-87 in OT about two weeks ago.
At Waltham, Mass. (Dana Center)
BENTLEY 67, SAINT ROSE 59
SAINT ROSE (21-7) -- Ali Johnson 7-15 5-6 19; Amy Voelkel 5-11 0-0 13; Ola Shajuyigbe 2-6 5-6 10; Ashley Rath 3-14 2-2 10; Lynsey Timbrouck 2-6 0-2 5; Jessica Walton 1-2 0-0 2; Emily Trapp 0-0 0-0 0; Adrianna Gaeta 0-0 0-0 0; Alison McGrath 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-54 12-16 59.
BENTLEY (24-4) -- Lauren Battista 9-13 4-6 22; Kim Brennan 6-12 6-7 19; Courtney Finn 6-13 4-5 17; Jacqui Brugliera 2-7 2-2 6; Shatasia Kearse 1-2 0-0 2; Katherine Goodwin 0-2 1-2 1; Christiana Bakolas 0-1 0-0 0; Lauren Massie 0-0 0-0 0; Kelsey Roberson 0-1 0-0 0; Meghan Thomann 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-52 17-22 67.
Halftime: B 31-27; 3-point goals--SR 7-25 (Voelkel 3-7; Rath 2-9; Timbrouck 1-4; Shajuyigbe 1-5), B 2-11 (Brennan 1-3; Finn 1-4; Goodwin 0-1; Roberson 0-1; Thomann 0-1; Brugliera 0-1). Fouled out-- None.