SAINTS STORM INTO SWEET 16; WOMEN'S BASKETBALL ROLLS TO 57-52 REGIONAL FINAL WIN
Providence, R.I. - Emmanuel College pulled off a 57-52 upset over Rhode Island College in 2nd Round action of the NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Tournament played at the Murray Center on Saturday night. With the Regional Final victory, the Saints (24-6) have earned a spot in the NCAA "Sweet Sixteen." Emmanuel handed Rhode Island College its first home loss of the season and the Anchorwomen end their season at 25-4.
The Saints will now advance to the NCAA Sectional rounds on March 9th and 10th. Rhode Island College closes out the program's most successful campaign, having established a new school record for wins. Of the Anchorwomen's four losses during the 2011-12 season, two came at the hands of the Saints.
Emmanuel overcame a one-point deficit with three minutes remaining in the game, as juniors Laura Benvenuto (Wyckoff, N.J.) and Fiona O'Dwyer (Stamford, Conn.) made key layups down the stretch to help lead the Saints. Senior guardBreanna Ockimey (Philadelphia, Pa.) led the Saints with 13 points and 6 rebounds. Senior guard Meghan Kirwan (Melrose, Mass.) contributed 10 points and 5 rebounds. Freshman forward Lena Negri (Arlington, Va.) chipped in with six points and a game-high 16 rebounds, to go along with 4 assists and 3 blocked shots.
The first half was a physical battle as Emmanuel was whistled for 13 fouls and the Anchorwomen capitalized by making 11-of-14 (79 percent) from the charity stripe. The Saints, however, were able to pull away and build a seven-point, 21-14, lead with 8:36 left in the first stanza. With EC down, 9-8, a layup by Negri, a steal and two free throws from Benvenuto and a layup by sophomore forward Liz Daley (Sharon, Mass,) made it 14-9.
A jumper by RIC set the score at, 14-11, but Benvenuto and Ockimey each cashed in layups to raise the margin to points. RIC then mounted a comeback on the strength of a 9-2 run. Junior forward Courtney Burns (Rockland, Mass.) made two layups, Gaudet knocked down three free throws and Riley nailed a jumper to put the Anchorwomen on top, 24-23, with just over five minutes left in the half.
A layup by Saint sophomore guard Bria Tiro (Saugus, Mass.) cut Emmanuel's deficit to one point, 32-31, just as the halftime buzzer sounded. RIC shot 27 percent (9-for-33) from the field and struggled mightily at 23 percent (3-for-13) from downtown. Emmanuel shot 35 percent (12-for-34) from the field and 50 percent (2-for-4) from behind the arc. The Saints out-rebounded RIC, 28-22, over the first 20 minutes.
Emmanuel led, 41-37, with 15:18 left in the game, but a jumper by Riley, three-pointer by Gaudet and bucket from Burns staked the hosts to a 44-41 advantage at 12:38.
A 6-0 run, paced by a layup and three-ball from Ockimey put the visitors on top, 47-44, with 8:59 remaining. A jumper by RIC freshman forward Katie Donovan (Hudson, N.H.) and a layup by Riley put the Anchorwomen back on top, 48-47, but Emmanuel junior guard Chenae Earle (South Orange, N.J.) answered right back, as she drained a trey with the shotclock winding down to make it 50-48 at 7:12.
Riley cut the deficit to one point, 51-50, with a strong hook shot in the post at 5:23, but Emmanuel held RIC off the scoreboard on its next three possessions with an emphatic block by Negri and forcing the Anchorwomen into a pair of shot clock violations.
The Saints weren't able to capitalize as EC turned the ball over three times. Gaudet finally broke through with a follow-up off a missed layup to give the hosts a 52-51 lead at 3:08. Burns grabbed a rebound off a missed Gaudet trey and was fouled by Kirwan, sending the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Player of the Year to the bench with her fifth foul.
On the ensuing possession, Benvenuto drove strong to the rack and converted a tough shot to regain the lead for the Saints, 53-52, with just under two minutes left to play. RIC sophomore guard Stephanie Prusko (Lincoln, R.I.) swiped a saving rebound attempt by Earle to give the Anchorwomen the ball back with 28 seconds left, but a turnover with 12.2 ticks left on the clock gave Emmanuel possession once again.
Both squads called 30-second timeouts. On the inbounds play, Emmanuel broke RIC's defensive pressure and Negri found O'Dwyer all alone under the basket for the deciding layup to make it, 55-52, with 5.4 seconds left. O'Dwyer then stole the Anchorwomen's inbounds pass at midcourt and sealed the game with a pair of freebies.
Gaudet ended her career with a game-high 21 points and contributed 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. Riley posted a double-double with 15 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks. Burns had 8 points and 8 rebounds.
Emmanuel shot 31 percent (20-for-64) from the field, 29 percent (4-for-14) from three-point land and 57 percent (13-for-23) from the charity stripe. RIC shot 28 percent (17-for-61) from the field, 19 percent from outside (4-for-21) and 74 percent (14-for-19) from the free throw line. The Saints dominated the glass, outrebounding RIC, 57-39, which included 22 offensive boards.
Emmanuel will now advance to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen for the third time in program history. The Saints' most recent NCAA Sectional appearance was in 2007, when Emmanuel faced DePauw University. DePauw was victorious on Emmanuel's home court and went on to win the 2007 Division III National Championship. The Saints' other Sweet Sixteen bid occurred back in 2001, when Emmanuel won the Sectionals and advanced to the NCAA Final Four.
The Saints will now face King's College (Pa.) on Friday, March 9th. King's advanced to the Sweet Sixteen with a 64-63 win over Williams Paterson University on Saturday night. The site of next weekend's Sectional Round has yet to be determined but is likely to be announced Monday morning.
- COURTESY OF RHODE ISLAND COLLEGE SPORTS INFORMATION