Gemma & M. Smith Combine for 53, but Bentley Falls in OT, 93-89

Jen Gemma
Jen Gemma

WALTHAM, Mass. – Despite career nights from both sophomore forward Jen Gemma (Milton/ Fontbonne Academy) and freshman point guard Macchi Smith (Los Angeles, Calif./Windward School), Bentley University dropped a 93-89 overtime decision to Merrimack College in Northeast-10 Conference women's basketball Wednesday night at the Dana Center.

Bentley, the defending NCAA Division II national champions, held a 12-point lead with 2:33 left in regulation and was still up 10 with a minute left before a barrage of Warrior threes forced the extra session.

Gemma, before fouling out in the final second of regulation, scored a career-best 30 points and claimed 13 rebounds for her sixth double-double in seven games. Smith, making her second career start, set career-highs in points (23) and assists (8) while also grabbing seven rebounds.

After Bentley took a game-high 12-point lead, 74-62, on a three-point play by freshman forward Trevena Bennett (Union, N.J./Gill St. Bernard School) with two-and-a-half minutes on the second-half clock, Merrimack began its comeback with a lay-up from senior forward Aria Johnson (Los Osos, Calif.) and two free throws from classmate Chloe Rothman (Newton).

A three-point play by Bennett and two free throws by Bennett, sandwiched around a Rothman triple, put Bentley up 10, 79-69, heading into the final minute.

Merrimack knocked down three triples in 23 seconds, including two from senior guard Allison Wager (Center Conway, N.H.), with two steals during that stretch making the quick 9-0 burst possible. Bennett made one of two from the line with 17.6 seconds to put Bentley up 80-78, and after she missed the second, Wagner drilled a top-of-the-key three with 9.2 seconds left to give the Warriors an 81-80 lead.

Gemma was fouled on the inbound play and made the first of two free throws to tie the game with 8.8 seconds. She was whistled for her fifth foul with 0.8 seconds left, sending junior guard Tia Scott (New York, N.Y.) to the line for a one-and-one and a chance to win it.  However, her attempt was off the mark, sending the game into OT.

The overtime was tied at 89-89 after Bentley freshman guard Lauren Green (Damascus, Md./ Damascus HS) hit a three from the right wing with 51.2 seconds left. Scott put her team back in front with one of two free throws with 41.5 to play, and after Bentley missed two from the stripe with 29.7 on the clock, Rothman hit a pair with 19.3 seconds, making it a three-point game.

Smith missed a potential tying three in the final seconds, a put-back by senior forward Carlene Kluge (Reading/Reading HS) was also off the mark, and a late Merrimack free throw locked up the win for the visitors.

Bentley, which was outscored 31-15 over the final 7:30 (including OT), held the lead for more than 35 minutes and finished with a plus-eight rebound margin, 41-33. The Falcons were hurt by Merrimack's sizzling shooting from three (11-20) and 21 turnovers, six more than the Warriors.

Gemma was 12 of 18 overall, with two three-pointers, and Smith made 8 of 14 shots and also connected twice from three.  Bennett followed with 14 points and six assists, and White connected three times from three for nine points. Green also helped out with eight points and five boards.

Rothman powered Merrimack with 24 points and nine assists, and Wagner's five-of-eight effort from downtown helped her score 19 points off the bench.

Bentley (4-3, 1-3 NE-10) will return to action Saturday at St. Michael's (1:30 pm).