WALTHAM, Mass. – Grad student Courtney Finn (Winthrop/Winthrop HS) filled the stat sheet, finishing with 19 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, and senior All-America forward Lauren Battista (North Easton/Oliver Ames HS) locked up the win in the final seconds as Bentley University, the number one-ranked team in Division II, survived its first scare of the season for a 79-74 Senior Day win over Stonehill College in Northeast-10 Conference women's basketball Saturday afternoon at the Dana Center.
Bentley moved to within one of achieving regular season perfection with the 25-0 start (20-0 NE-10) now the second best in program history (31-0 in 1991-92). The victory was also the 750th as Falcon coach for Barbara Stevens, a milestone she achieved in just 905 games for an .829 winning percentage. Fifth on the all-time win list with 907, Stevens became only the ninth women's basketball coach to amass 750 wins at one institution.
Bentley never trailed in the game and held the lead over the final 37 minutes after a lay-up by senior forward Caleigh Crowell (Harwich/Worcester Academy) broke a 4-4 tie. The differential peaked at 15 with 10:46 to play but was down to three, 72-69, when senior forward Asia Ewing (Westford) drained a three from the left wing seven-and-a-half minutes later.
One of two free throws from senior point guard Christiana Bakolas (Manchester, N.H./Central HS) with 1:54 on the clock, a forced turnover by Battista and a Crowell lay-up with 43.7 on the clock restored the Falcon lead to six, 75-69.
However, the Skyhawk comeback bid wasn't over. After Stonehill senior point guard Mary Louise Dixon (Wellesley) and Bakolas exchanged free throws, each dropping in two, Dixon fired a three into the basket from the left wing and it was again a three-point game, 77-74 with 16.6 seconds remaining.
Bakolas was quickly fouled but this time she missed both charity tosses, giving Stonehill plenty of time to get off a tying three. The attempt by Dixon was well off the mark with Battista corralling the rebound and then closing out the win by hitting a pair of free throws with seven-tenths of a second left.
With the two teams separated by two points after nine minutes, Bentley embarked on a 15-3 run to open a 30-16 lead with 6:49 left in the opening half. Freshman forward Jen Gemma (Milton/ Fontbonne Academy) was instrumental during that run, scoring the final six points with four free throws and a lay-up.
In the second half, an 11-2 run produced Bentley's biggest lead at 58-43. Finn netted seven of the 11 with a three from the right corner off an inbound play, a driving lay-up and a pair of free throws.
Still facing a 13-point hole with 8:50 left, Stonehill ran off seven unanswered and the two teams headed into the final six minutes separated by just six.
Six different Falcons finished with eight points or more with Finn and Battista leading the way. Finn's 19 moved her past Nina Houghton '89 into 11th on Bentley's all-time scoring list with 1,435, and Battista (15 points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals) pushed her school record total to 1,930.
Crowell followed with 12 points and a career-best five steals, and senior forward Jacqui Brugliera (Fitchburg/Wachusett Reg. HS) finished with 10 points and six rebounds. Bakolas provided nine points, five rebounds and four assists, and Gemma pitched in with eight first-half points and five rebounds off the bench.
All five starters scored in doubles for Stonehill (17-7, 14-6 NE-10) with Dixon leading the way with 16 points and six assists. She struggled through a rough shooting night (2-12) but countered that by hitting 11 of 12 from the line in a foul-plagued game.
There were a total of 65 free throws, including 43 in the second half. Bentley went to the line a season-high 38 times, making 27, while Stonehill converted 23 of 27.
Both teams shot about 44 percent overall with the visitors more effective from three, making 7 of 22 as compared to the Falcons' 2 for 10. Rebounds went in Bentley's favor, 39-29, with 14 offensive boards resulting in a 17-3 domination in second-chance points.
Bentley will look to achieve regular season perfection when it hosts Franklin Pierce Tuesday (5:30 pm) in its final game before the Northeast-10 Championships.