WALTHAM, Mass. – The junior frontcourt tandem of Lauren Battista (North Easton/Oliver Ames HS) and Jacqui Brugliera (Fitchburg/Wachusett Reg. HS) combined to score the Falcons' first 16 points, all before the game was five minutes old, as Bentley University posted a wire-to-wire 85-56 victory over Holy Family University in the NCAA Division II Women's Basketball East Regional semifinals Saturday night at the Dana Center.
Battista finished with 21 points, pushing her to within four of 1,500 for her career, on nine of 13 shooting and Brugliera followed with 19, on eight of ten from the field, in only 14 minutes.
The number-one seeded Falcons, who reached Sweet Sixteen for the 19th time in 26 years, will host third-seeded Dowling College Monday at 7 pm in the regional championship game with a trip to San Antonio for the Elite Eight awaiting the winner. The Golden Lions earned their first-ever regional championship berth with a 57-45 win over Stonehill College.
Bentley, the two-time defending regional champions and the number three ranked team in Division II, exploded out of the gate and was never seriously threatened while stretching its home winning streak to 28 games and posting its 11th consecutive home win in NCAA regional action.
Before the game was ninety seconds old, Brugliera had seven points and a steal, Holy Family had none and Tiger head coach Mark Miller was forced to call a 30-second timeout. Brugliera opened the game's scoring with a straightaway three following a Holy Family turnovers and followed with a pair of lay-ups.
The starting run continued with a nine-foot jumper by Battista. After Holy Family got on the scoreboard with 17:46 on a baseline jumper by senior forward Erin Mann (West Chester, Pa.), the All-America continued with a top-of-the-key three and a 15-footer. That made it 14-2 after three minutes and ten seconds and Miller took another timeout after watching the Falcons hit six of their first seven shots.
The closest the Tigers got over the game's last 37 minutes was seven, 18-11 with 13:58 to play following a 7-3 spurt.
Bentley responded by scoring the next eight points, the first six of which were scored by freshman guard Jane White (Amherst, N.H./Souhegan HS). The first three came on a triple from the right corner, and on the Falcons' next possession, she produced a traditional three-pointer. After another Battista jumper, the scoreboard read 26-11 and the Falcons were a sizzling 11 of 14 from the field.
A jumper by junior point guard Christiana Bakolas (Manchester, N.H./Central HS) with 5:35 left was the Falcons' 18th basket in 25 attempts (a red-hit 72 percent) and enabled Bentley to double the visitors, 44-22.
After taking a 48-29 lead into the halftime break, the Falcon advantage remained between 17 and 34 throughout the second half with coach Barbara Stevens able to make liberal use of her bench en route to her 882nd career victory. Bentley's biggest lead came on a lay-up by junior forward Tyler Parker Kimball (New Britain, Conn./ New Britain HS) with 5:28 to play, 79-45.
Senior forward Caleigh Crowell (Harwich/Worcester Academy) was Bentley's third double-figure scorer, chipping in with 10 off the bench, including nine rebounds. White tallied nine, Bakolas finished with six, and both Parker Kimball and senior guard Kelsey Roberson (Arlington/Arlington Catholic HS) scored five.
Bentley shot 53 percent from the game, buried 10 three-pointers and displayed great ball movement with 29 assists on 35 baskets, including 18 of 19 to start the game. Bakolas led the way with nine helpers, and both Battista and senior guard Courtney Finn (Winthrop/Winthrop HS) had five. By the time the final buzzer sounded, ten of the 12 Falcons had at least one assist.
The Falcons also got it done at the defensive end, limiting Holy Family to just 32 percent shooting while dominating the boards, 48-33. Mann, the Daktronics East Region Player of the Year who came in averaging 18 points and nearly nine rebounds, was limited to 12 (on 6-15 shooting) and one.
Bentley's opponent on Monday, Dowling, knows something about defense as it leads Division II in fewest points allowed and opponents' field goal percentage. That D was on display in the first half of the semifinal doubleheader as the Lions limited Stonehill to 18 second half points and a .295 field goal percentage.
Bentley and Dowling met once this season, back on Dec. 11 with the Falcons pulling out a 56-51 decision down on Long Island.
Holy Family, ranked sixth nationally in Division II, finished a season book-ended by losses to Bentley at 28-3.