MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Junior All-Conference forward Jen Gemma (Milton, Mass./Fontbonne Academy) scored 31 points, tying her career-high, while leading the Bentley University Falcons to their 31st 20-win season, 61-56 over Southern New Hampshire University in Northeast-10 Conference women's basketball Wednesday night at the SNHU Fieldhouse.
Bentley, ranked 24th in this week's WBCA/USA Today Sports Division II poll and 12th in the D2SIDA rankings, improved to 20-3 overall and 14-3 NE-10 while maintaining a two-game lead over Saint Anselm College in the NE-10's Northeast Division. The Falcons have won eight straight and 14 of their last 15 contests.
Gemma, in addition scoring 31 for the fifth time in her career, stuffed the stat sheet with 13 rebounds, two steals and two blocks. She also topped the 1,300-point threshold as a Falcon.
This one went down to the wire after the Falcons held several 12-point leads, the last at 48-36 early in the fourth, and were still up 10, 58-48, with 2:52 to play.
One of two at the line from SNHU freshman forward Kylie Lorenzen (Holliston, Mass.) and a three-pointer from sophomore guard Caitlin Dell'Orfano (North Andover, Mass.) made it 58-52 Falcons with 54.1 seconds left. Bentley got one back when sophomore guard Macchi Smith (Los Angeles, Calif./Windward School) sank one of two free throws but two Penmen baskets, sandwiched around two missed free throws by Bentley, reduced it to 59-56 with 8.8 seconds.
Freshman guard Megan Lewis (Sevenoaks, England) was fouled off the inbound and buried two from the stripe with 7.6 seconds to make it a two-possession game. Southern New Hampshire missed both a three and a put-back attempt before the final buzzer sounded.
Scoreless until just 1:05 was left in the opening quarter, Gemma went to the locker room with 20 points, including 16 in the second quarter alone. That came during a 29-11 Falcon explosion that turned a six-point deficit into a 36-24 lead at the half.
Gemma began her scoring burst with a put-back and a lay-up in the final 65 seconds of the first, which ended with the Penmen on top, 15-11.
The six-footer scored Bentley's first 11 points during a 15-6 run to start the second quarter, a burst that put the Falcons in front to stay at 26-21.
Gemma, who has 56 points and 33 rebounds in two games against SNHU this season, finished 11 of 23 overall, two of four from three and seven of ten at the foul line.
Lewis was next on the scoring list for the Falcons, finishing with eight points along with five rebounds and two assists. Freshman guard Amy McConnell (South Windsor, Conn./South Windsor HS) helped out with a couple of three-balls for six points.
Lorenzen led Southern New Hampshire with 16 points, 15 rebounds and a 10-for-12 effort at the foul line.
On a night where neither team shot well, SNHU had the slight edge, 36-33 percent, and controlled the boards, 46-37. However, Bentley knocked down six of the game's eight three-pointers and forced 16 turnovers, producing a 16-7 advantage in points off.
Bentley will be back in New Hampshire on Saturday for a 1:30 game at Franklin Pierce.