ALBANY, N.Y. – Down by 10 with under five minutes to play, the undefeated Bentley University women's basketball team closed with a 24-9 run to avoid a major upset by The College of Saint Rose, 79-74, and record its 500th Northeast-10 regular season win Saturday afternoon at the Nolan Gymnasium. The Falcons are the first program in the conference's 32-year history to achieve that milestone.
Senior guard Courtney Finn (Winthrop, Mass./Winthrop HS) and freshman guard Jane White (Amherst, N.H./Souhegan HS) each posted career scoring highs for Bentley, finishing with 22 and 18, respectively, with Finn tying the school records for both free throws made (16) and attempted (19). The win boosted the nation's second-ranked Division II team to 15-0 overall and 11-0 NE-10.
Bentley's 500 NE-10 regular season wins was accomplished in just 585 games, for a sparkling winning percentage of .855. Stonehill is next on the win list, 85 back of the Falcons, and no other NE-10 team has as many as 300 conference victories.
Bentley, which survived a dismal shooting afternoon (31 percent after making its last six attempts), faced a 65-55 deficit as the clock moved under five minutes. The Falcons ran off a 12-2 spurt to create the game's first tie since the opening minutes, 67-67. The surge began with a jumper and two free throws by junior All-America Lauren Battista (North Easton, Mass./Oliver Ames HS). Senior guard Kelsey Roberson (Arlington, Mass./Arlington Catholic HS) made two from the line and Battista hit a baseline jumper to bring the Falcons within four, 67-63, with 2:12 left.
Finn drained two from the free throw stripe with 2:55 to play to bring the Falcons within two, and tied it with a one-on-one move for a lay-up with 2:12 left.
After Saint Rose made one of two at the line, junior guard Christiana Bakolas (Manchester, N.H./Central HS) drove to the basket for a go-ahead lay-up, giving the visitors their first lead of the game with 1:35 remaining, 69-68.
Saint Rose regained the advantage with two free throws, but the lead was short-lived as White drained her fourth triple to put Bentley back in front, 72-70 with 1:09 on the clock. Following two more Golden Knight free throws, tying the game for the fifth time, Battista hit a scoop shot and the ensuing free throw, putting the Falcons in front to stay with 47.9 seconds left.
Two free throws by Finn with 23.5 seconds left and two more from Bakolas with eight seconds locked up the Falcons' 28th consecutive East Region win and kept coach Barbara Stevens' team in sole possession of first in the NE-10, one game up on Stonehill College.
It was a nightmarish start to the first half for the Falcons, who fell behind by double figures for the first time all season and trailed by 17 after 12 minutes. The Golden Knights made 14 of 22 shots (64 percent) over that span while Bentley, which didn't make a basket in the first 5:30, misfired on 18 of its first 20.
Bentley ran off eight unanswered over a stretch of nearly six minutes to cut the differential to nine, 29-20, and went into the locker room down 10, 38-28, after giving up nine points in the final 2:12.
Finn and White carried the scoring load for Bentley in the first half, with nine and seven points respectively. Saint Rose dominated in the paint, 18-10, and had three players, including posts Maria Sanchez Gonzalez (Madrid, Spain) and Jessica Walton (Albany, N.Y.), score at least eight points.
Saint Rose's hot shooting continued into the second half with the Golden Knights gradually rebuilding a lead that shrunk to five early in the stanza to 14, 60-46, just past the midpoint. At that point Saint Rose was outshooting the Falcons, 57-22 percent.
Bentley offset its shooting woes by capitalizing on 22 Saint Rose turnovers and 27 Golden Knight fouls while taking excellent care of the basketball (only nine turns overall, one in second half). The Falcons finished with a 33-12 edge in free throws made while attempting 26 more (41-15) and had a 25-11 advantage in points off turnovers.
Finn, in addition to the 22 points, filled the stat sheet with eight rebounds (including six offensive), five assists and three steals. Her 16-19 from the line matched Kim Cummings' 1996 performance against American International.
White came off the bench to make six of ten shots, including four of seven from downtown, and Battista survived a cold-shooting day to finish with 15 points, seven rebounds and four steals. Roberson also scored in doubles, finishing with 11 points.
Sophomore post Mariah Lesure (Amherst, Mass.) powered Saint Rose with 19 points, 15 coming after the break. Classmate and guard Gabie Polce (Chelmsford, Mass.) followed with 15 points and seven assists, and both Walton and Sanchez had double-doubles.
Bentley will be back in New York on Wednesday for a 5:30 pm contest at Adelphi University.