Crowell, Finn Combine for 39 as 30-0 Bentley Pulls Away Late for 80-65 NCAA Regional Victory

Caleigh Crowell
Caleigh Crowell

WALTHAM, Mass. – Fifth-year senior forward Caleigh Crowell (Harwich/Worcester Academy) had an outstanding all-around game, with her line including 4-of-5 from three-point land, and All-Region grad student Courtney Finn (Winthrop/Winthrop HS) knocked down 14 of 16 free throws en route to a game-high 23 points as undefeated Bentley University notched its 30th victory of the season , 80-65 over eighth-seeded Bloomfield College in the first round of the NCAA Division II Women's Basketball East Regional Friday night at the Dana Center.

Bentley, the region's top seed and the season-long number one in the USA TODAY Sports/WBCA Division II rankings, advanced to take on fourth-seeded Stonehill College, a 79-61 winner over the University of District of Columbia, in the second half of Saturday's regional semifinals, with the tip-off slated for 7:30 pm.

The other semifinal will pit a pair of Long Island institutions against each other as second-seeded LIU Post, a buzzer-beating winner over Assumption College, against third-seeded Adelphi University, which outlasted the University of New Haven in overtime.

Bloomfield gave the Falcons all they could handle for most of the game and actually had a one-point lead, 58-57 after sophomore guard Ariel Wilson (Chesapeake, Va.) knocked down a three from the top-of-the-key with 10:38 left.

Bentley quickly regained the lead when senior All-Conference forward Jacqui Brugliera (Fitchburg/Wachusett Reg. HS) hit a pair of free throws 15 seconds later. That began an 8-0 burst that included two Brugliera lay-ups, one of which just beat the shot clock, and a second-chance basket from senior All-America Lauren Battista (North Easton/Oliver Ames HS).

Wilson netted the game's next three points, bringing the Deacons (20-10) to within four with 5:50 left.

The rest of the game belonged to the Falcons, who closed with a 15-4 spurt over the final 5:33, a stretch in which they held Bloomfield to one field goal in five attempts and forced three turnovers.

One free throw by freshman forward Jen Gemma (Milton/Fontbonne Academy) and two by Finn made it 68-61. After a Wilson free throw, the Falcons extended their lead with ten straight points, all but two coming from the free throw stripe. Finn had six of the ten, with a driving lay-up and four free throws.

Bentley got off to a strong start, hitting eight of its first 11 shots, including four triples (two by Crowell, one apiece for Finn and Battista), to build a 24-13 lead.  The Falcons went cold after that, misfiring on 16 of their next 18, and the lead stood at one, 37-36, at the break.

There were six lead changes in the first ten minutes of the second half, the last coming when Brugliera drained the two free throws to make it 59-58.

Crowell couldn't have shot much better as she made six of seven overall, including the four from outside the arc. She also contributed with five rebounds, three rejections and two steals. Finn, who surpassed 1500 career points, complemented her 23 points with six rebounds and three assists.

Bentley's five double-figure scorers also included Gemma (12), Brugliera (12) and Battista (11). Brugliera topped the Falcons on the boards with seven, and Gemma (8-10 free throws) added six in her first career NCAA tournament game. Senior point guard Christiana Bakolas (Manchester, N.H./ Central HS) delivered ten assists for Bentley.

Freshman guard Tianna Smith (Nanuet, N.Y.) led Bloomfield with 18 points and Wilson followed with a dozen.

Bloomfield shot slightly better, 44-43 percent, and had four more field goals. However, the Falcons had a huge advantage at the line with Finn single-handedly making and attempting more than the Deacons as a team (8-12). Bentley shot 88 percent from the stripe, hitting 30 of 34, and also dominated the boards, 38-26.

Stonehill, which trailed by as many as ten in the first half and by three with 15 minutes to play, closed with a 40-19 explosion to win going away. Five double-figure scorers were led by an 18-point effort off the bench from sophomore guard Shannon Brown.

LIU Post stole a win when Alexis Peters picked off an inbound pass with 1.1 seconds left and beat the buzzer with a 17-footer for the win. She finished with 21 points, two shy of teammate Chelsea Williams' 23. Both players eclipsed 1,000 career points during the contest.

Adelphi outscored New Haven 17-11 in overtime, including a string of nine straight to begin the extra session. Senior Jessica Kitrys, who hit the tying basket with 46.5 seconds left in regulation, led the Panthers with 28 points, including six in OT.