WALTHAM, Mass. – Two-time Capital One Academic All-America Lauren Battista (North Easton/ Oliver Ames HS) claimed an unprecedented third consecutive tournament Most Outstanding Player award and classmates Jacqui Brugliera (Fitchburg/Wachusett Reg. HS) and Christiana Bakolas (Manchester, N.H./Central HS) joined her on the All-Tournament Team as the three juniors led the Bentley University Falcons to a third consecutive Northeast-10 Conference Women's Basketball Championship with a 68-59 win over Assumption College Sunday afternoon at the Dana Center.
Battista and Bakolas each scored 17 points, with Bakolas setting a career-high for the second time in three games, and Brugliera came within a rebound of a double-double, finishing with ten points. Bentley, ranked third nationally in Division II, also received 11 points, all in the second half, from senior guard Kelsey Roberson (Arlington/Arlington Catholic HS).
The win, Bentley's 26th straight at home and 19th consecutive postseason home victory, gave the 28-1 Falcons 17 NE-10 playoff championships all-time and an automatic berth to next weekend's NCAA Division II East Regional.
Coach Barbara Stevens' club exploded out of the gate to start the game, scoring the first ten points to force an Assumption timeout less than three minutes into the game. Brugliera opened the scoring with a lay-up, Bakolas followed with four free throws and Battista scored the next four, on a driving lay-up and on a short baseline jumper.
After the Greyhounds pulled within 12-6, the same trio combined on another run, this time 8-0, to make it a 20-6 game with 11:43 left on the first-half clock. Brugliera hit a pair from the line, Battista scored inside twice and Bakolas followed with a fast-break lay-up.
Most of the next seven minutes belonged to the visitors, Assumption using a 19-5 run to forge the game's only tie, 25 apiece with 4:56 left. Greyhound senior guard Gabrielle Gibson (Amityville, N.Y.), who led all scorers with 23 points, connected twice from downtown while scoring a total of ten during that stretch.
Bentley bounced right back, scoring the next eight points and again Bakolas was in the middle of things. A Battista lay-up put the Falcons back in front, Bakolas scored the next four with a lay-up and two free throws, and junior forward Tyler Parker Kimball (New Britain, Conn./New Britain HS) capped the run with a pair from the charity stripe.
Following four points by Assumption, Bakolas added two more free throws with 2.6 seconds left, sending the Falcons into the break up six at 35-29. She finished the opening half with 12 points, seven above her season norm, and a perfect eight-of-eight at the line.
Roberson dropped in three balls from outside the arc and did all her scoring during an eight-minute second-half run of 19-6 that made it a 15-point lead, 54-39, with just under ten to play.
The Falcon advantage remained in doubles until Gibson knocked down a 17-footer with 2:41 left, bringing the Hounds to within eight, 61-53. Bentley answered with a driving lay-up by Battista and a Brugliera free throw, but Gibson's fourth of five three-pointers put the lead back at eight with 1:20 to play.
Bentley, which finished an impressive 18 of 22 from the line, locked up the win by making four of six in the final 45 seconds, including three of four by Bakolas. She single-handedly spent more time shooting free throws than the entire Assumption team, finishing 11 of 12 while the Hounds were eight of 10.
Bentley overcame 38 percent shooting by limiting the Hounds to 32 percent, including 29 in the first half, and controlling the boards, 47-41. In addition to the nine from Brugliera, Battista and senior guard Courtney Finn (Winthrop/Winthrop HS) each had seven, and Roberson and Kimball each grabbed five.
Assumption, 22-7 and a probable at-large selection for the NCAAs, committed only 11 turnovers, three less than Bentley, and finished with a 20-8 advantage in points off turns. The Falcons were plus-17 in points in the paint, 37-20, and doubled the Greyhounds in second-chance points, 16-8.
Gibson, who moved into second on Assumption's all-time scoring list, needed 24 shots, including 13 from three-point land, for her 23 points. Senior forward Sabrina Siciliano followed with 10, all in the second half, and junior forward Jamie Insel (Clinton, N.J.) had 12 rebounds. She joined the Bentley trio and Gibson on the All-Tournament team.
The NCAA tournament field will be announced during a selection show on www.NCAA.com tonight at 10 pm, and the regional will get underway with four games on Friday.