WALTHAM, Mass. – Graduate student Elise Caira (Wakefield/Arlington Catholic HS), making her first start of the season on Senior Day, scored the game's first six points and Bentley University went on to its sixth wire-to-wire win of the year, 69-50 over Stonehill College in Northeast-10 Conference women's basketball Saturday afternoon at the Dana Center.
The win, the sixth straight for the nation's sixth-ranked Division II team, boosted the Falcons to 23-3 overall (19-2 NE-10) and clinched a tie for the NE-10 regular season championship, the 20th time in the conference's 31-year history Bentley has had at least a share of the top spot. Coach Barbara Stevens' club, which leads Southern Connecticut State by one game, can wrap up the title outright with a victory in the regular season finale Tuesday night at UMass-Lowell.
Caira (six points, two steals in nine minutes of action) was one of eight Falcons who scored at least six points in the contest, a group that included four in double figures. Senior guard Katherine Goodwin (Goffstown, N.H./Governors Academy) led the way with 11 points, and Bentley also received 10 points from a trio of sophomores: Christiana Bakolas (Manchester, N.H./Central HS), Lauren Battista (North Easton/Oliver Ames HS) and Jacqui Brugliera (Fitchburg/Wachusett Reg. HS).
On top 6-5 after Stonehill answered Caira with five in a row, Bentley ran off 16 straight points, over a span of a little more than four minutes, to open a 22-5 lead midway through the opening half. Brugliera had seven of the 16 with a pair of free throws, a put-back and a three-pointer, and four other Falcons also contributed points during the surge.
There would be several more runs before the opening half ended with Bentley on top by 10, 35-25. Stonehill tallied the next ten, Bentley answered with nine in a row, the Skyhawks followed with a pair of triples, the Falcons scored four in a row at the line, and the visitors closed the half by scoring the final two basket.
Midway through the second half, with the differential still at ten, Bentley used a 9-2 surge to open a 17-point lead, 56-39 with 7:13 to play. Junior forward Caleigh Crowell (Harwich/Worcester Academy) had the first four, Goodwin scored on a drive and senior forward Shatasia Kearse (Framingham/Lincoln-Sudbury Reg. HS) capped it with a three-point play.
Later in the half, Goodwin and junior guard Courtney Finn (Winthrop/Winthrop HS) connected from three-point land to cap a string of 10 unanswered points that made it a 23-point game, 69-46, with 3:47 remaining.
Goodwin knocked down three of five treys en route to her 11 points, and Bakolas (6-6 free throws) filled the stat sheet with six rebounds, three steals and three assists. Battista also had eight rebounds and two steals, Brugliera provided five rebounds and two steals in addition to scoring 10, and Finn provided eight points, eight rebounds and four assists. Kearse (seven rebounds) and Crowell matched Caira with six points.
Neither team shot well (Bentley with the slight edge 38-34 percent), but the Falcons dominated the boards (45-30), made twice as many free throws (16-8) and protected the ball, with only 12 turnoversa.
Stonehill sophomore forward Asia Ewing (Westford) kept her team close with three first-half three-balls and led all scorers with 15 points.