WALTHAM, Mass. – Senior guard Courtney Finn (Winthrop/Winthrop HS) and junior forwards Lauren Battista (North Easton/Oliver Ames HS) and Jacqui Brugliera (Fitchburg/Wachusett Reg. HS), a trio of All-Conference honorees, combined for 61 points and 25 rebounds as top-seeded Bentley University overcame a 16-point second-half deficit to oust eighth-seeded Adelphi University, 89-80, in the quarterfinals of the Northeast-10 Conference Women's Basketball Championships Sunday afternoon at the Dana Center.
Finn, who joined Battista and Brugliera in Bentley's 1,000-point club, scored 15 of her 21 points in the second half, and also provided two steals and two blocks. Battista matched her 21 and came within one rebound of a double-double, and Brugliera finished with a season-best 19 points and 11 rebounds.
The two-time defending champion Falcons, ranked third nationally in Division II, improved to 26-1 overall and reached the conference semifinals for the 30th time in 32 years after putting up 62 points after intermission, tying the school record for points in a half. Bentley will host fifth-seeded Franklin Pierce in the semifinals (Thursday, 7 pm), the sixth postseason meeting between the two clubs since 2009.
Down 16 on three different occasions during the first 2:20 of the second half, Bentley embarked on a 34-8 explosion over a span of nine-plus minutes to completely change the game. The Falcons, who had missed 14 of their final 17 shots to finish the first half, made 14 and 18 during that run that produced a 68-58 lead with 7:50 to play.
The comeback began with senior guard Kelsey Roberson (Arlington/Arlington Catholic HS) burying a three-pointer off an inbound pass from junior guard Christiana Bakolas (Manchester, N.H./ Central HS), who had her highest scoring game as a collegian (15 points). Brugliera followed with one of her three traditional three-point plays of the game.
Following an Adelphi three, the explosion resumed with the next 14 points going up on the Bentley side of the scoreboard. Brugliera made another three-point play and came up with the steal on the inbound, which quickly led to a Bakolas lay-up. Lay-ups by Finn, Bakolas and Battista brought the Falcons within one, and Bakolas made the first of two free throws to cut the deficit to one.
A defensive rebound and coast-to-coast trip for a lay-up by Bakolas gave the Falcons its first lead in about 15 minutes of game time, 51-50 with 12:40 left. After a Panther lay-up put the visitors back up by one, a Battista basket put Bentley in front to stay, beginning a spurt of eight unanswered that made it a 59-52 game with 10:12 remaining.
A free throw by Adelphi junior guard Sade Jackson (Hackensack, N.J.) and a steal and lay-up teammate Ifeanyi Ofili (Uniondale, N.Y.) temporarily interrupted the Falcons, reducing the lead to four at 59-55.
Bentley answered with a Battista lay-up off a Bakolas steal and four Finn free throws, the first of which made her the 33rd player in the program's history to reach 1,000, a milestone she achieved with 8:48 on the game clock.
Upset-minded Adelphi, which finished its season at 15-13, kept battling back and was within five, 85-80, when Jackson drained a three from the right wing with 47.2 seconds left. The Panthers were forced to foul, with a pair of free throws by Battista and Bakolas locking up the Falcons' 17th straight home postseason win.
Bentley, despite being plagued by early turnovers, opened an 18-11 lead when Battista knocked down a top-of-the-key three off the fast break. Adelphi heated up after that, outscoring the Falcons 28-5 before four points by Finn in the final 30 seconds cut the deficit to 12, making it a 39-27 at the break. The Panthers, during the final 10-plus minutes of the half, made 11 of 19 shots, including a half-dozen threes.
Bakolas scored 13 of her 15 in the second half and also gave the Falcons seven assists, four rebounds and three steals while making five of six from the field and also from the line. Roberson was Bentley's fifth double-figure scorer, finishing with 10 points.
Adelphi also had five in doubles, with Ofili scoring a team-high 18 off the bench (including 12 in the first half) and Jackson following with 17, along with seven assists.
Bentley's .645 second-half field goal percentage elevated the Falcons to 48 percent overall, two percent better than Adelphi which had a 9-4 advantage in threes. The Falcons finished with a huge advantage at the line (25-32 as compared to 9-12) and were a plus-17 on the boards, 45-28, with Brugliera's seven offensive a major reason for a 19-8 dominance in second-chance points.
Bentley swept Franklin Pierce, an 84-69 winner over UMass-Lowell, during the regular season, prevailing 80-52 on Dec. 4 at home and 74-63 Feb. 20 on the road. Last year, the Falcons edged the Ravens twice in the postseason, 69-65 in double-OT in the NE-10 semis and 54-52 with a game-ending 7-0 run in the NCAA Regional semis.
In the other quarterfinal games, Merrimack stunned second-seeded Stonehill, 77-72, and third-seeded Assumption bested New Haven, 80-66.