WALTHAM, Mass. – Junior All-Conference forward Jen Gemma (Milton/Fontbonne Academy) scored 20 points and freshman guard Megan Lewis (Sevenoaks, England) launched a late 21-5 run with a pair of threes as Bentley University captured the Northeast-10 Conference Northeast Division title with a 68-50 win over St. Michael's College in women's basketball Wednesday night at the Dana Center.
The victory boosted the number one-ranked team in the NCAA Division II East Region to 21-4 overall and 15-4 in the NE-10. Coupled with Stonehill's buzzer-beating win over Saint Anselm, it gave the Falcons a three-game lead over Saint Anselm in the Northeast Division with two to play.
Bentley put this one away with a dominating run over the game's final 7:35 after the Purple Knights had reduced a 21-point Falcon advantage to just two, 47-45. Lewis got it going with a pair of threes from the left side, just about 35 seconds apart. Gemma followed with a fast-break lay-up from sophomore guard Macchi Smith (Los Angeles, Calif./Windward School), and Smith scored on a drive to make it 57-45.
After a St. Michael's free throw, Smith connected on a three, Gemma scored on a lay-up and sophomore guard Kristin Brown (Poulsbo, Wash./North Kitsap HS) made two from the line for a 64-46 lead. There would be two more Brown baskets to extend the lead to 20, 68-48, before the Purple Knights scored the game's final basket.
Bentley took a 36-24 lead into the halftime locker room after using runs of 12-2 and 17-3. The Falcons pounded the ball inside throughout the half, outscoring the Purple Knights in the paint 24-8, and also were solid at the defensive end, limiting the Vermonters to 19 percent shooting in the second quarter and forcing nine turns in the half.
The 12-2 first-quarter run turned a two-point deficit into a 20-12 lead. It included five points from Smith and was capped by a three-ball from Brown.
Lauren Green (Damascus, Md./Damascus HS), another sophomore guard, was instrumental in the 17-3 burst, connecting twice from deep, as Bentley opened a 36-19 lead with 3:22 left in the first half. At that junction, the Falcons were shooting a sparkling .615 (16-26) from the floor.
In the third, the game of runs continued with Bentley scoring the first nine points. Lewis got it started, senior guard Jane White (Amherst, N.H./Souhegan HS) connected on a three and Gemma scored the next four with a 45-24 lead with 6:54 left.
The Falcons managed only two points in the next nine minutes, a stretch in which St. Michael's (8-16, 4-15) was scoring 21. Senior guard Makenzie Burud (Red Hook, N.Y.) accounted for ten of the 21, including the final eight to make it a two-point game.
Gemma, 10 of 20 from the floor, also provided eight rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block.
Smith, Lewis and freshman forward Victoria Lux (Arundel, Maine/Thornton Academy) all finished with ten and Brown scored nine off the bench. Lux and Lewis also helped on the boards, with eight and seven, respectively.
Burud led St. Michael's with a 14-point, 14-rebound double-double.
Rebounds (St. Michael's 40-39)and turnovers (Bentley 10, SMC 11) were about the same, but the Falcons shot much better, finishing .468 overall and 7-18 from three. The Purple Knights, who were nearly doubled in the paint (40-22), was limited to .311 and made only two of 14 from deep.
Bentley will play its final road game of the regular season Saturday, a 1:30 game at Saint Anselm.