WALTHAM, Mass. – After wrapping up the Northeast-10's Northeast Division title and receiving top billing in the first NCAA Division II East Region rankings of the season, the Bentley University women's basketball team will look to close out the regular season on a winning note, beginning Saturday afternoon at Saint Anselm. Tip-off at Stoutenburgh Gym is set for 1:30 pm with a webcast available at www.saintanselmhawks.tv.
Bentley, which will be playing in the Granite State for the third time in 11 days, will make the trip north with records of 21-4 overall and 15-4 in the Northeast-10. Saint Anselm, which has dropped two in a row after stringing together nine straight wins, is 16-8 overall and 12-7 in the conference.
It's been a turn-around season for both clubs. Bentley, which missed the NE-10 tournament last year after winning the 2014 national championship, is one win away from doubling last year's victory total. Saint Anselm has improved on last year's win count by seven and has reached 16 in the victory column for the first time since 2003.
Coach Barbara Stevens, one away from becoming the fifth women's basketball coach with 950 career victories, has seen her team win nine of its last ten and 15 of its last 16. After having a nine-game streak halted by Franklin Pierce last Saturday, the Falcons bounced back at home Wednesday, 68-50 over St. Michael's. It was the seventh time in the last nine games they've held the opponents in the fifties.
Junior forward Jen Gemma (Milton/Fontbonne Academy), the NE-10 leading scorer for the second straight year, is five points away from a second consecutive 500-point season with her scoring average of 19.8 on pace to break the school record of 19.5 she set a year ago. Gemma has 1,354 career points, a total only two players in program history have exceeded prior to their senior year. Lauren Battista '14 finished her junior season with 1,504, and Kim Penwell '93 totaled 1,368 in her first three years.
Gemma averages 20.2 points in conference play and has played a key role in the Falcons posting an 11-2 road record thus far. Away from Waltham, the six-footer has produced 20.9 points and 10.7 rebounds a game.
Gemma is followed on the Bentley scoring list by sophomore guard Lauren Green (Damascus, Md./Damascus HS) and freshman guard Megan Lewis (Sevenoaks, England). Green (10.1 ppg) is number two in the NE-10 in three-point accuracy (.417) and Lewis (9.1 ppg) had a steal in 23 straight games prior to Wednesday.
In Wednesday's game, freshman forward Victoria Lux (Arundel, Maine/Thornton Academy) put up ten points and eight rebounds, and the Falcons received solid efforts off the bench from two sophomore guards from the west coast, Macchi Smith (Los Angeles, Calif./Windward School) and Kristin Brown (Poulsbo, Wash./North Kitsap HS). They combined for 19 points and nine assists.
Saint Anselm's chances of catching the Falcons in the race for the Northeast Division title, ended Wednesday when the Hawks were edged 71-70 on a buzzer-beating three by Stonehill's Paige Marshall. The Hawks started the season 5-1 and went 2-5 over their next seven before stringing together the nine-game winning streak.
Defense has been a forte of the 2015-16 Hawks as they've held their opponents to 58.1 points a game, .358 shooting and a .252 accuracy mark from outside. During the recent win streak, they yielded only 53 ppg.
Junior guard Candace Andrews is the only NE-10 player averaging at least ten points and six assists with her numbers 11.6 ppg and an even 6.0 on helpers. She's scored in doubles in four straight, a stretch in which she's averaged 15 points.
The team's other double-figure scorers are senior guard Raquel Johnson and junior guard Caitlyn Abela, at 10.5 and 10.0 respectively. Johnson is also second in rebounds (7.0) and Abela is third in the NE-10 in three-pointers (53).
Sophomore guard Ali Glennon (9.3 ppg) is also a three-point threat (41) and six-foot-five freshman Samnell Vonleh (8.8 ppg) is second in blocks (51).
When the two teams met back in early December, the Falcons received a combined 38 points on 16-25 shooting accuracy from Gemma, Lux and six-foot-two junior Melina Kollia (Athens, Greece). Saint Anselm was limited to just .275 shooting and forced into 22 turnovers.
Bentley, currently two wins away from 1,000 all-time, will close out the regular season Tuesday at home against Merrimack.