WALTHAM, Mass. – During recent weeks, the hottest teams in Northeast-10 Conference women's basketball have been the Bentley University Falcons and the Merrimack College Warriors. Bentley, ranked 14th in Division II, owns an 11-game winning streak and Merrimack has won seven of its last eight.
The two teams will meet for the final time in an NE10 regular season contest Saturday at Merrimack's Hammel Court with tip-off slated at 1 pm. As always, the game can be seen on the NE10 NOW digital network.
Bentley, one victory away from a fourth straight 25-win season and its eighth in the last nine years, will make the trip to North Andover with records of 24-2 overall and 18-1 NE10. Coach Barbara Stevens' squad is 13-0 away from Waltham this season after a 71-59 triumph at Saint Michael's Wednesday night.
The Falcons, who'll be playing their final road game of the regular season, have previously clinched the NE10's Northeast Division title and own a six-game lead over both Saint Anselm and Stonehill.
Merrimack, in a battle with above two teams for the number two seed in the division, is in fourth place at 18-8 overall and 11-8 NE10. This is the Warriors' final season in the conference as they've announced plans to shift to the Division I Northeast Conference next year.
Senior center Victoria Lux (Arundel, Maine/Thornton Academy), senior guard Amy McConnell (South Windsor, Conn./South Windsor HS) and sophomore guard Katie Meriggioli (Waunakee, Wis./ Edgewood HS) are within two points of each other at the top of the Falcon scoring list for the season. All are averaging a little over 11 a game.
Lux currently owns the top spot with 297 points, one more than McConnell and two more than Meriggioli. Lux has averaged 13.2 points and 7.2 rebounds over the last five games, and Meriggioli is coming off a 15-point, 15-rebound effort at St. Michael's. McConnell was limited to two points Wednesday after producing 17.5 a game over the previous four.
Bentley's fourth player averaging in doubles for the season is senior guard Megan Lewis (Sevenoaks, England) at 10.6. She's one of only four players in the conference shooting at least 50 percent overall and 80 percent at the foul line.
Junior forward Monica Viapiano (Holden/Holy Name HS), owner of the sixth-best field goal percentage in the NE10 at .536, follows at 9.8 points per game.
Junior guard Julia Ford (Charlton/Noble and Greenough) is shooting a conference-high .473 from three-point land and has totaled 23 points off the bench during the last two games. That includes a career-best 13 at Saint Michael's Wednesday.
Bentley averages 73.1 points a game, second highest in the conference, but has reached that number only twice during the current win streak. The Falcons lead the NE10 in several categories, including scoring margin (+14.8) and defensive rebound percentage (.749).
Merrimack, the highest scoring team in the NE10 at 74.6, features the Division II leader in assists (Karlee Alves, 209), the NE10 leader in blocks (Denia Davis-Stewart, 91), and two of the six conference players with at least 50 threes, Lindsay Werner (64) and Kate Mager (55). Alves is third in D-II in assists per game (8.0) and Davis-Stewart is seventh in blocks per game (3.5).
Werner is the team's top scorer with a 16.7 average and is one of four Warriors contributing at least 12 points a game. Davis-Stewart is among five NE10 players averaging a double-double with averages of 13.5 points and 11 rebounds.
Merrimack is 17-2 when scoring at least 70 points with both losses coming in overtime, including last Saturday at Southern New Hampshire. On the other hand, coach Monique LeBlanc's squad is just 1-6 when scoring less than 70.
Only two teams have scored 70 or more against the Falcons this season, the most recent being nationally-ranked USciences back on Dec. 28 in one of only two losses for Bentley.
In the earlier meeting between the Falcons and Warriors, Bentley amassed 25 assists during a 72-65 victory. Meriggioli scored a game-high 15 points and both Lux and Viapiano followed with 14.
Bentley will finish the regular season Tuesday against Franklin Pierce in the Dana Center and will host a team to be determined in the NE10 quarterfinals on Sunday, Mar. 3.