WALTHAM, Mass. – To date, only seven NCAA women's basketball teams have amassed 1,000 wins, an elite group that consists of Tennessee, Louisiana Tech, James Madison, Old Dominion, Texas, Stephen F. Austin and Stanford.
The Bentley University Falcons will be looking to become number eight, and the only non-Division I member, of the 1,000-win club Sunday when it begins its bid for a 19th Northeast-10 Conference tournament championship against Stonehill College at 2 pm at the Dana Center. The game will be webcast over www.bentleyfalcons.tv for those unable to attend.
While Bentley has been idle since Tuesday, Stonehill will be playing on the road for the second time in less than 48 hours. The Skyhawks, seeded fifth in the Northeast Division, kept their season going with a first-round victory at Le Moyne College Friday night, 56-51.
The Falcons, who finished the regular season at 22-5 and claimed the Northeast Division title by two games over Saint Anselm, will be playing their first postseason contest since topping West Texas A&M in the 2014 NCAA Division II national championship game. Bentley was 9-0 in the postseason that season and owns a 12-game winning streak in NE-10 tournament play after capturing the championship annually from 2011-14.
It'll be the third meeting of the season between the Falcons and Skyhawks with Bentley looking to go 3-0 in the series. Coach Barbara Stevens' club won at home Jan. 2, 80-69, and prevailed 53-50 down at Stonehill Feb. 3. Falcon junior forward Jen Gemma (Milton/Fontbonne Academy), named Friday as the Northeast-10 Player of the Year, was the team's leading scorer in both, averaging 22.5 points and 10 rebounds.
Gemma has had a standout season for the Falcons, averaging a conference-leading 19.7 points along with 9.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. She's scored at least 20 in six of the last seven games, including 20 in a 58-50 win over Merrimack on Tuesday, and has accounted for nearly 30 percent of her team's points.
Stevens, who notched her 950th career win in her team's last game, has been able to start the same five all season. Gemma, senior co-captain Jane White (Amherst, N.H./Souhegan HS) and sophomore All-Conference guard Lauren Green (Damascus, Md./Damascus HS) have been joined in all 27 by a pair of freshmen, guard Megan Lewis (Sevenoaks, England) and forward Victoria Lux (Arundel, Maine/ Thornton Academy).
Green and Lewis are both averaging over nine a game, and have combined for 79 three-pointers this season. Lux has totaled 33 points in the last three games, and White has made at least one triple in seven of the last nine contests.
Off the bench, sophomore guard Macchi Smith (Los Angeles, Calif./Windward School) has been playing well of late, including Tuesday when she had nine points, four rebounds, four assists and a couple steals against Merrimack. She's averaging 4.9 points overall.
Stonehill advanced by limiting Le Moyne to 20 first-half points and 32 percent for the game. Meanwhile, the Skyhawks made nearly 48 percent of its shows and receiving a big game from senior guard Paige Marshall, who kept her career alive by scoring 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
Stonehill is 15-13 overall after winning three of its last four contests, including 71-70 at Saint Anselm a week-and-a-half ago on a buzzer-beating three by Marshall. The Skyhawks have been better away from home this season, posting a 10-5 record, including 7-4 in the opponents' gym.
Marshall is her team's second-leading scorer, averaging 12.9 points. Junior guard Kelly Martin, a second-team All-Northeast-10 pick, tops the list at 15.6 points and also leads the club in three-pointers (46), free throws (100-118, .847) assists (117) and steals (36).
Stonehill leads the NE-10 in free throw percentage (.776) and is fourth in field goal percentage (.413), but on the other hand, the Skyhawks rank 13th in the conference in field goal percentage defense at .397.
The other quarterfinal games have Adelphi at American International for the second time in six days, Assumption at Southern Connecticut and New Haven at Saint Anselm. The women's semis are Thursday night with the Bentley/Stonehill winner paired against the Assumption/Southern Connecticut winner.
The championship game will be a week from Sunday.
First Round Friday, February 26th
Game 1: #5 SW Adelphi 72, #4 NE Franklin Pierce 65
Game 2: #5 NE Stonehill 56, #4 SW Le Moyne 51
Quarterfinals Sunday, February 28th
Game 3: #5 SW Adelphi at #1 SW American Int'l (3 p.m.)
Game 4: #5 NE Stonehill at #1 NE Bentley (2 p.m.)
Game 5: #3 NE Assumption at #2 SW So. Connecticut (2 p.m.)
Game 6: #3 SW New Haven at #2 NE Saint Anselm (2 p.m.)
Semifinals Thursday, March 3rd (at highest remaining seeds)
Game 7: Game 6 winner vs. Game 3 winner (7 p.m.)
Game 8: Game 5 winner vs. Game 4 winner (7 p.m.)
Championship Sunday, March 6th (at highest remaining seed)
Game 9: Game 8 winner vs. Game 7 winner (1 p.m.)