WALTHAM, Mass. – Freshman forwards Jacqui Brugliera (Fitchburg/Wachusett Reg. HS) and Lauren Battista (North Easton/Oliver Ames HS) each had double-doubles, and four teammates joined them in double figures as the top-seeded Bentley University women's basketball team reached the NCAA Division II East Regional championship game with a 77-64 semifinal win over fourth-seeded Assumption College Sunday afternoon at the Dana Center.
Bentley, now 27-4 on the season, will host sixth-seeded Pace University Tuesday night at 6 pm as it bids for its 11th regional championship since 1989 and its first since 2003. The regional final appearance will be the Falcons' 17th in 24 years, the most recent coming in 2007. Assumption finished its season at 22-8, tying the school record for wins.
"We're just absolutely thrilled," said Bentley coach Barbara Stevens following her 821st career victory. "We needed a great game to beat a great Assumption team."
Just as they did in Friday's quarterfinal win over C.W. Post, the Falcons started the game with a run and maintained the lead throughout. Bentley scored the first eight points against Post and nearly matched that against the Hounds with six straight points to open the contest. That was extended to 10-1 before Assumption made its first field goal of the afternoon with nearly six minutes elapsed.
The opening salvo for Bentley was fired by Battista. In the opening two minutes alone, she claimed four offensive rebounds, setting a tone for the Falcons all afternoon, and also scored a basket, drew a charge at the defensive end, and set a pick freeing junior guard Katherine Goodwin (Goffstown, N.H./Governors Academy) for an open jumper.
The nine-point early lead marked Bentley's high of the opening 20 minutes. Assumption closed to within three points before the Falcons went into the break up five at 29-24. Sophomore guard Gabrielle Gibson (Amityville, N.Y.) single-handedly kept the Hounds in the game as she scored 15 of her team's points.
The second-half Falcon lead remained between three and eight until Assumption ran off seven in a row to close to within one, 41-40, with 13:30 left. Hot-shooting sparked the comeback with the Hounds hitting seven of their first ten in the second half.
The decisive point in the contest came at that juncture as the Falcons reeled off 10 in a row to go up 11 at 51-40, with 11 minutes left on the clock. Senior guard Kim Brennan (Locust Valley, N.Y./Locust Valley HS) nailed a three from the left side, sophomore Courtney Finn (Winthrop/ Winthrop HS) sank a triple from the top of the key, and junior forward Shatasia Kearse (Framingham/ Lincoln-Sudbury Reg. HS) hit four of four free throws.
That 10-0 spurt grew into a 20-4 run that made it a 61-44 game with 6:54 left. Goodwin buried a three from the right corner, Finn hit one from the right side and Kearse added another four points.
"Kim broke their D open a number of times and found open shooters," said Stevens after watching her team bury eight threes. "Courtney and Katherine both extended their defense."
Finn led the scoring for Bentley, with her 17 points matching her career-best. She nailed three triples and had a couple steals. Burgliera got it done at both ends with 14 points, 14 rebounds, three steals and two blocks, and Battista finished with 11 rebounds (seven offensive), 10 points and four assists.
Goodwin matched Finn's three triples and finished with 14 points, and both Brennan (5 assists) and Kearse (6 rebounds) finished with 10 points.
"A balanced attack is what our team needs to succeed at the next level," said Brennan, the number five scorer in the program's history.
Gibson powered Assumption with 27 points, one shy of the career high she set in the Hounds' quarterfinal win over Saint Rose. Her day included five of nine from three-point land.
Assumption shot better, 47-40 percent), but Bentley had a huge edge in terms of free throws and rebounds. The Falcons were 19 of 23 at the line, a number coming in the waning minutes after the Hounds were forced to foul, and the Hounds went to the stripe only four times, making but two.
On the boards, Bentley was a plus-16 (44-28) and finished with more offensive rebounds (21) than Assumption had defensive (20).
Bentley won the only regular season meeting with Pace, 73-61 back in January. It's a rematch of the 2001 regional final, won by the Setters 86-75 at the Dana Center.
At Waltham, Mass. (Dana Center)
BENTLEY 77, ASSUMPTION 64
ASSUMPTION (22-8) -- Gabrielle Gibson 11-18 0-0 27; Katy Howard 5-10 0-0 12; Kelly Meredith 4-9 1-2 10; Sabrina Siciliano 3-4 0-0 6; Jamie Insel 2-6 0-0 4; Molly Griffiths 1-7 1-2 3; Shannon Ray 1-3 0-0 2; Courtney Donovan 0-0 0-0 0; Tafanie Roye 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-57 2-4 64.
BENTLEY (27-4) --Courtney Finn 5-11 4-4 17; Jacqui Brugliera 4-9 6-9 14; Katherine Goodwin 4-8 3-4 14; Lauren Battista 4-12 2-2 10; Kim Brennan 4-11 0-0 10; Shatasia Kearse 3-7 4-4 10; Christiana Bakolas 1-3 0-0 2; Kelsey Roberson 0-1 0-0 0; Meghan Thomann 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-63 19-23 77.
Halftime: B 29-24; 3-point goals--A 8-20 (Gibson 5-9; Howard 2-5; Meredith 1-2; Griffiths 0-4), B 8-17 (Goodwin 3-5; Finn 3-5; Brennan 2-3; Roberson 0-1; Thomann 0-1; Battista 0-1; Brugliera 0-1). Fouled out--None. Rebounds--A 28 (Insel 6), B 44 (Brugliera 14). Assists--A 9 (Meredith, Gibson 3), B 14 (Brennan 5). Total fouls--A 18, B 9. Technical fouls--None.