Emmanuel Upends Emerson To Win GNAC Championship
The Emmanuel College Women’s Basketball Team won the
program’s 13th Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC)
Championship on Saturday afternoon, defeating the 2nd-seeded Lions
of Emerson College, 51-40. Sophomore guard Kristin LeBel
(Tolland, Conn.) scored a game-high 20 points, hitting 17 of 18
from the free throw line, to lead the top-seeded Saints.
Emmanuel (21-7) will now advance to the NCAA Tournament for the
14th time in program-history. Emerson (20-8) will receive a
bid to the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC)
The battle between the local rivals was an ugly one, with the teams combining for 65 turnovers and 45 fouls. Emmanuel shot a dismal 15.2% from the field, connecting on just 10 of 66 field goal attempts. Emerson’s shooting was not much better, as the Lions hit just 15 of 54 for 27.8% shooting. The rebounds were even, with each team hauling in 49 boards. The key to the game for the Saints was their free throw shooting. Emmanuel went to the 37 times, as opposed to just 9 visits for the Lions. The Saints shot 78.4% from the charity stripe, knocking down 29 of their 37 freebies.
The Lions kept it close in the early going, with the lead changing hands three times in the opening twenty minutes of play. The Saints’ largest lead of the opening stanza came when LeBel drained two of her seventeen free throws to put Emmanuel up nine, 24-15, with 2:39 on the clock. The 1st-Team All-Conference selection was forced to leave the game early in the first half after falling hard to the floor and suffering a gash above her right eye. LeBel seemed unfazed by the blow, as she returned to the contest just five minutes later and continued to stick her free throws.
Emerson hit just five field goals in the first half and Emmanuel tallied six. After forcing 21 Lions turnovers in the opening half, the Saints were able to take a 26-17 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The Lions shooting improved in the second half, but Emerson was never able to fully overcome the deficit. The Lions went to the line just two times in the second half, compared to 22 trips for the Saints. Turnovers continued to plague the visitors, as they finished the contest with 39 on the night. The Saints capitalized, scoring 26 points off the Emerson errors.
Emmanuel scored just four field goals over the entire second half and the Saints did not hit a shot from the floor for the final 5:39 in the contest. With LeBel and sophomore guard Casey Shevlin (Medford, N.Y.) combining to go 10 for 10 from the line over the final minute, Emmanuel was able to come away with the 51-40 win and the program’s 13th GNAC Championship.
LeBel and junior captain Iman Davis (Toms River, N.J.) were the only two double-figure scorers for the Saints. Davis netted 8 points, to go along with 4 rebounds and 4 steals. Junior captain Abby Brenkach (Germantown, N.Y.) chipped in with 5 points and hauled in a game-high 13 boards.
For Emerson, GNAC Rookie of the Year Lauren Zaniboni (San Diego, Calif.) led the way with 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots. Junior guard Andrea Kosek (Latham, N.Y.) added 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 steals in the effort.
GNAC Player of the Year Iman Davis was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. LeBel and Brenkach were named to the All-Tournament Team for Emmanuel. Zaniboni and Kathy Andrade (Hull, Mass.) received All-Tournament Team honors for the Lions.
Emmanuel will receive the GNAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for the third-straight year. The Saints will play in the NCAA Regionals on Friday (3/6). The Saints’ opponent and the site of the game will be determined on Monday morning.
GNAC Women's Basketball All-Tournament Team
Tournament MVP - Iman Davis (Emmanuel)
Alexia Ramirez (JWU)
Kayleigh Shappy (Norwich)
Lauren Zaniboni (Emerson)
Kathy Andrade (Emerson)
Abby Brenkach (Emmanuel)
Kristin LeBel (Emmanuel)
Courtesy: Emmanuel Athletic Communications