EASTON, Mass. -- Freshman forward Jacqui Brugliera (Fitchburg/Wachusett Reg. HS) powered her way to 21 points, a career-high 18 rebounds and a career-best six blocks, and sophomore guard Courtney Finn (Winthrop/Winthrop HS) nailed two big second-half threes, as Bentley University wrapped up the 2010-11 Northeast-10 Conference women's basketball regular season championship with a 59-47 win over Stonehill Wednesday night at the Merkert Gymnasium.
Bentley, ranked 20th nationally in Division II, improved to 22-4 overall and 19-3 in the NE-10, winning the conference title by a game over both Franklin Pierce and Assumption. It's the record 19th conference title for Bentley, its first since the 2002-03 season.
Bentley, which trailed by as many as 11 in the first half, limited the Skyhawks to 20 points and 22 percent shooting in the second half while staging the comeback.
The Falcon comeback actually began with about two minutes left until intermission. Junior post Shatasia Kearse (Framingham/Lincoln-Sudbury Reg. HS) scored the final six points of the first half, cutting the Falcon deficit from 11 to a respectable five at 27-22. Her personal 6-0 run came after the visitors had scored only seven points in the previous 13:40, enabling the Skyhawks to embark on a 21-7 surge.
The strong finish helped Bentley avoid its lowest scoring first half of the season and put a positive spin on a stanza that saw the Falcons shoot just 32 percent and lose the ball on turnovers a dozen times. Rebounding was a plus in the half with Bentley a plus-six (24-18) on the boards. Brugliera led the way in that department with nine.
The momentum carried into the second half with Bentley opening with an 8-3 spurt to knot the game at 30 apiece. Freshman forward Lauren Battista (North Easton/Oliver Ames HS) accounted for half of the Falcon points, including an eight-foot put-back to make it 30-30.
Bentley, down 40-37 as the clock went under seven minutes, ran off the next seven points as part of a 10-1 run and never relinquished the lead again. Brugliera scored on a put-back, Finn buried a three-ball from the right side off a fast-break, and Battista followed with a lay-up. After a Stonehill free throw temporarily interrupted the run, Finn knocked down another trey, this one from the left corner, and the Falcon lead hit seven, 48-41, with 5:24 left.
Stonehill (17-10, 12-9 NE-10) closed to within three, 50-47, with 2:48, but Bentley pitched a shutout the rest of the way to lock up the championship. Brugliera made two free throws with 2:24 on the clock to make it a five-point game and after a couple missed threes by the Skyhawks, the Falcons pulled away in the final minute by making seven of eight free throws.
Brugliera's ninth double-double of the season saw her make seven of 14 shots from the floor, one of two three-pointers and six of eight free throws. Seven of her 18 boards came at the offensive end and the six-time NE-10 Rookie of the Week also had two steals.
Finn followed with 12 points, most coming via three trifectas, and three steals, and Kearse finished with 10 points and seven boards. Battista had a quiet night, but finished with eight points, eight rebounds, four blocks and two steals. One of those boards came at the offensive end with a minute to play and the teams separated by five after the Falcons had just beaten the shot clock.
Senior guards Kristen McWhirter (Melvin Village, N.H.) and Emily Rousseau (Biddeford, Maine) led Stonehill with 13 and 12 points, respectively. McWhirter shot very well (5-7, two threes), but Rousseau suffered through a 5-for-19 shooting night.
Bentley outshot the Skyhawks 35-29 percent and finished with 15 more rebounds, 51-36. That helped produce a 14-6 edge in second-chance points.
Bentley could see Stonehill again on Tuesday in the Northeast-10 quarterfinals. The Falcons will host the winner of Sunday's 8-9 game, which will pit Southern New Hampshire at Stonehill.
At Easton, Mass. (Merkert Gymnasium)
BENTLEY 59, STONEHILL 47
BENTLEY (22-4, 19-3 NE-10) -- Jacqui Brugliera 7-14 6-8 21; Courtney Finn 4-8 1-1 12; Shatasia Kearse 5-9 0-3 10; Lauren Battista 2-7 4-4 8; Kim Brennan 2-12 2-2 6; Katherine Goodwin 1-5 0-0 2; Christiana Bakolas 0-4 0-0 0; Lauren Massie 0-0 0-0 0; Kelsey Roberson 0-0 0-0 0; Meghan Thomann 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-60 13-18 59.
STONEHILL (17-10 12-10 NE-10) -- Kristen McWhirter 5-7 1-1 13; Emily Rousseau 5-19 1-2 12; Mary Louise Dixon 4-11 1-2 10; Tania Williams 1-4 2-2 4; Asia Ewing 1-8 1-2 3; Anna Griffin 1-8 0-0 2; Amanda Smith 1-1 0-0 2; Cori O'Kane 0-1 1-2 1; Erika Higginbottom 0-1 0-0 0; Priscilla Dodoo 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 18-62 7-11 47.
Halftime: S 27-22; 3-point goals--B 4-15 (Finn 3-5; Brugliera 1-2; Brennan 0-4; Goodwin 0-3; Thomann 0-1), S 4-17 (McWhirter 2-4; Dixon 1-6; Rousseau 1-6; O'Kane 0-1). Fouled out--Williams. Rebounds--B 51 (Brugliera 18), S 36 (Ewing 7). Assists--B 13 (Bakolas 6), S 13 (Dixon 7). Total fouls--B 11, S 18. Technical fouls--None. A-1443