WALTHAM, Mass. -- Freshman forwards Lauren Battista (North Easton/Oliver Ames HS) and Jacqui Brugliera (Fitchburg/Wachusett Reg. HS) combined for 40 points, and senior guard Kim Brennan (Locust Valley, N.Y./Locust Valley HS) provided 17 points and seven assists, as Bentley University captured the Northeast-10 Conference Women's Basketball Championship for the 15th time in 30 years, 85-71 over two-time defending champion Franklin Pierce University Sunday afternoon at the Dana Center.
Battista was selected as the tournament's MVP after amassing 19 points, six rebounds and four assists as well as doing an outstanding defensive job on the Ravens' Marielle Giroud. Brugliera led all scorers with 21 points, 16 coming in the first half to send the Falcons into the break up ten.
The start-to-finish win gave Bentley the conference's automatic qualifier to the NCAA Division II tournament, which they have a strong chance of hosting this coming weekend, and boosted the team's record to 25-4, making this the 17th time in the program's history they've reached the 25-victory milestone.
The three leading scorers for coach Barbara Stevens' team staked the Falcons to a 7-0 start with barely two minutes elapsed, forcing an early Franklin Pierce timeout. Battista scored inside off a fast-break after a Brugliera steal, Brugliera drained a top-of-the-key three-pointer, and Brennan followed with a lay-up.
After the Ravens answered with five in a row to get within two, Bentley used an 8-2 spurt, with each of the above three providing two points, to go up eight, 15-7, after seven-and-a-half minutes. When Brugliera scored with 6:41 left in the half, the Falcon advantage hit ten for the first time, 30-20, and the team's shooting accuracy was about 57 percent.
Bentley, ranked 17th nationally in Division II, led by as many as 14 in the first half (37-23 with 3:51 on the clock) before taking a 41-31 lead into intermission.
Franklin Pierce, 14-1 in its previous 15 games, hung tough through the first 12 minutes of the second half, drawing to within five at 61-56. The Ravens had a chance to get closer, but Giroud couldn't finish the three-point play.
The Falcons regained control by scoring the next six points with Brugliera hitting two from the line, Battista hitting a turn-around in the lane, and Battista sinking two free throws following an offensive rebound. That surge made it 67-56 with 6:37 left.
The Ravens (24-7) closed to within seven with 2:03 left, but a put-back by Bentley sophomore Courtney Finn (Winthrop/Winthrop HS) restored the lead to nine, 75-66, with 1:30 left. The Falcons locked up the championship by hitting 10 of 10 free throws in the final 71 seconds, six of those made by Brennan.
Brugliera, the Northeast-10 Rookie of the Year, was 5-of-10 from the field and 10-of-12 from the line en route to her seventh 20-point game of the season. She also had six rebounds and three steals. Battista hit 8-of-13 shots while holding Giroud (who had 35 against Bentley last month) to just 3-of-10. Brennan, perfect in nine trips to the line, amassed her 17 points and seven assists while committing just one turnover.
Bentley also received a dozen points from junior guard Katherine Goodwin (Goffstown, N.H./ Governors Academy), who was four of six from the field. Junior post Shatasia Kearse (Framingham, Mass./Lincoln-Sudbury HS) had a strong game off the bench, with eight points and six rebounds.
Northeast-10 Player of the Year Jewel White (Worcester) led Franklin Pierce with 18 points and 14 rebounds, but was allowed only six field goal attempts and did most of her scoring from the line (10-11). Giroud had nine rebounds and three blocks, but her six points was nearly nine below her season norm. Sophomore Amanda Saab (Windham, N.H.) provided 17 points off the Ravens' bench.
Bentley outshot Pierce, 47-44 percent, and finished with a commanding advantage at the foul line, due in part to the Ravens' late fouling, and in points in the paint (42-28). The Falcons were 29 of 33 at the charity stripe, both numbers season-bests, while Pierce finished 14 of 18.
Bentley took exceptional care of the ball with only 10 turnovers, as compared to 19 for FPU, and finished with an 18-10 bulge in points off.
Battista was joined on the All-Tournament Team by Brennan, Brugliera, Giroud and White.
Franklin Pierce will receive an at-large berth to the NCAA regional when the field, and site, is announced on www.NCAA.com tonight at 9:30 pm.
At Waltham, Mass. (Dana Center)
BENTLEY 85, FRANKLIN PIERCE 71
FRANKLIN PIERCE (24-7) -- Jewel White 4-6 10-11 18; Amanda Saab 7-12 2-4 17; Brittany Martelle 3-5 0-0 7; Lekia Cowen 2-7 2-2 7; Tiffany Johnson 3-8 0-0 6; Brooke Coderre 2-6 0-0 6; Marielle Giroud 3-10 0-1 6; Kate McDonald 2-5 0-0 4. Totals 26-59 14-18 71.
BENTLEY (25-4) -- Jacqui Brugliera 5-10 10-12 21; Lauren Battista 8-13 3-4 19; Kim Brennan 4-11 9-9 17; Katherine Goodwin 4-6 3-4 12; Shatasia Kearse 3-7 2-2 8; Courtney Finn 1-7 2-2 4; Meghan Thomann 1-2 0-0 2; Lauren Massie 1-1 0-0 2; Christiana Bakolas 0-1 0-0 0; Kelsey Roberson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-58 29-33 85.
Halftime: B 41-31; 3-point goals--FP 5-17 (Coderre 2-3; Saab 1-2, Martelle 1-3; Cowen 1-3; McDonald 0-1; Giroud 0-3; Johnson 0-2), B 2-9 (Brugliera 1-1; Goodwin 1-2; Brennan 0-2; Finn 0-2; Thomann 0-1; Battista 0-1). Fouled out--Coderre, Brugliera. Rebounds--FP 34 (White 14), B 33 (Finn 8). Assists--FP 12 (Martelle, Giroud 3), B 16 (Brennan 7). Total fouls--FP 19, B 16. Technical fouls-- None.