WALTHAM, Mass. – All-America junior forward Lauren Battista (North Easton/Oliver Ames HS) amassed 17 points and 12 rebounds, and classmate Jacqui Brugliera (Fitchburg/Wachusett Reg. HS) also had a double-double, as Bentley University finished strong for a 73-61 win over Merrimack College in Northeast-10 Conference women's basketball Tuesday night at the Dana Center.
Bentley, which trailed by one with six minutes to play, outscored the Warriors 19-6 down the stretch to remain undefeated (3-0, 2-0 NE-10) and extend its winning streak against East Region opponents to 16. The Falcons, ranked second in this week's USA Today Sports/ESPN/WBCA Division II coaches poll, have also won 12 in a row on their home court.
A rare four-point play by Merrimack sophomore guard Chloe Rothman (Newton) capped a 9-2 spurt and put the Warriors up one at 55-54. She committed her fifth foul 17 seconds later, and Bentley junior guard Courtney Finn (Winthrop/Winthrop HS) capitalized with the game-tying and go-ahead free throws, putting Bentley back in front, 56-55, with 5:51 left.
Lay-ups by Battista and Finn extended the advantage to five, 60-55, and after a Warrior basket temporarily interrupted the run, the Falcons ran off seven straight to claim the game's first double-digit lead, 67-57 with 1:55 left. Brugliera netted the first five of that spurt, and Finn followed with a pair of free throws.
A Finn lay-up with a minute left and two free throws apiece by Brugliera and Finn in the final 33 seconds locked up the victory.
Merrimack, up 36-34 at the half after maintaining a slim advantage for the final six minutes of the first, came out of the second-half gate fast, using an 8-2 spurt to take its biggest lead of the night, 44-36. Rothman, who led the Warriors with 14 points, scored five during that fast start.
Following a timeout by Women's Basketball Hall of Fame coach Barbara Stevens, Bentley came alive, outscoring the visitors 16-2 over the next eight minutes to turn the eight-point deficit into a 52-46 lead. Battista had half of the Falcon points during the surge, and freshman guard Jane White (Amherst, N.H./Souhegan HS) helped out with five.
Neither team shot well for the game (Merrimack 37 percent, Bentley 36), but the Falcons were more effective after intermission, hitting at a 41 percent clip while limiting the Warriors to 30 percent. Bentley, which committed only eight turnovers, had seven more shot opportunities and also had a major advantage at the line despite missing nearly as many as Merrimack attempted. The Falcons finished 19 of 29, including an 8-of-8 effort from Finn, and the Warriors attempted only 14, making 11.
Battista, in addition to the double-double, gave the Falcons three assists and a steal, and didn't commit a turnover in 35 minutes of action. Finn finished with 14 points and rebounds, and Brugliera contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds.
In addition, the Falcons received 10 points, six rebounds and two blocks off the bench from junior forward Caleigh Crowell (Harwich/Worcester Academy).
Bentley, which finished with a 20-10 advantage in points off turnovers, is back in action next Wednesday with a 5:30 pm game at St. Michael's.