WALTHAM, Mass. – The American International College Yellow Jackets will provide the opposition when the Bentley University Falcons begin defense of their Northeast-10 Conference Women's Basketball Championship Sunday afternoon with a quarterfinal game at the Dana Center.
Bentley, which owns a record 20 NE10 championships, enters the postseason with a 13-game winning streak and a 26-2 record, its best in the regular season since the undefeated national championship season of 2013-14. Coach Barbara Stevens' team, coming off a 57-55 nail-biter over Franklin Pierce Tuesday, won 20 of 21 NE10 games and is ranked 13th in Division II and second in the East Region.
AIC, the number four seed out of the Southwest Division, punched its ticket with a 79-55 first-round thrashing of Southern New Hampshire Friday night. The Yellow Jackets are 16-13 overall after winning six of their last eight.
The two teams met once during the regular season with Bentley winning at home Jan. 16, 63-58. The last postseason matchup between the Falcons and Yellow Jackets came in the 2016 NE10 Championship game, a 67-60 victory for Stevens and her team.
Bentley senior center Victoria Lux, ten rebounds away from moving into fourth on the program's all-time list, finished the regular season with back-to-back double-doubles that boosted her averages to 11.8 points and 7.3 rebounds. She had 16 and 10 against Merrimack last Saturday and 17 and 16 in the Franklin Pierce win Tuesday.
Second to Lux in both categories is sophomore guard Katie Meriggioli (Waunakee, Wis./ Edgewood HS), at 11.5 points and 6.9 rebounds. Over the last three games, she's averaged 14.3 points and a dozen rebounds.
Senior guards Amy McConnell (South Windsor, Conn./South Windsor HS) and Megan Lewis (Sevenoaks, England) are the Falcons' other double-figure scorers with each at 10.8. McConnell is second in the conference in three-point accuracy (.419) and Lewis is 11-2 in 13 career postseason games, including 6-0 in the NE10 Championships.
Rounding out Stevens' usual starting five is junior guard Maddy Springfield (Jaffrey, N.H./ Conant HS). She contributes 5.9 points and 5.5 rebounds a game.
Off the bench, Bentley relies on contributions from junior forward Monica Viapiano (Holden/ Holy Fame HS), junior guard Julia Ford (Charlton/Noble and Greenough) and sophomore forward Marissa Fontaine (Franklin/Bishop Feehan HS). Viapiano averages 9.8 points on 54 percent shooting and both Ford (27 of 59, .458) and Fontaine (45 of 111, .405) are three-point threats.
Bentley leads the NE10 in scoring margin (14.5), three-point accuracy (.384) and defensive rebounding percentage (.759) and is in the top three in both scoring defense and field goal percentage defense.
AIC features six-foot-one center Dana Watts, who will come into the Dana Center with 2,180 career points and needing only ten points to become the program's all-time leading scorer. After a 17-point, 13-rebound, five-assist effort Friday, the conference's leading scorer is averaging 21.2 points and 11.5 rebounds
Senior Alyssa Guyon is also having a productive senior season for coach Kristen Hutchison. She's buried 51 three-pointers and is averaging 15.3 points.
AIC's 79 points in the opening round win was its most since mid-December. For the season, the Jackets are averaging 67.5 and giving up 59.9. Those compare to Bentley's numbers of 72.3 and 57.7.
In the all-time series between the two, Bentley is 65-11 all-time, including 13-1 postseason (11-0 NE10, 2-1 NCAA).
Bentley, 84-16 all-time in conference tournament games, is 34-2 in the quarterfinal round.
In the earlier meeting, Bentley seized control by outscoring AIC 18-7 in the third to go up 50-40. Lux and Viapiano combined for 30 points and Meriggioli had the first of her three 15-rebound games. For AIC, Watts had 21 points and ten rebounds.
In the other quarterfinal games, Saint Anselm is at Adelphi, Merrimack is at Le Moyne and New Haven is visiting Stonehill.
Thursday's semifinals will have the Bentley/AIC winner taking on either Saint Anselm or Adelphi.
NORTHEAST-10 CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS
First Round Friday, March 1
Game 1: Merrimack (No. 4 seed NE) 75, Southern Connecticut (No. 5 seed SW) 62
Game 2: American International (No. 4 seed SW) 79, Southern New Hampshire (No. 5 seed NE) 55
Quarterfinals Sunday, March 3
Game 3: Merrimack (No. 4 seed NE) at Le Moyne (No. 1 seed SW) – 2:00 PM
Game 4: American International (No. 4 seed SW) at Bentley (No. 1 seed NE) – 3:00 PM
Game 5: Saint Anselm (No. 3 seed NE) at Adelphi (No. 2 seed SW) –3:00 PM
Game 6: New Haven (No. 3 seed SW) at Stonehill (No. 2 seed NE) – 3:00 PM
Semifinals Thursday, March 7 (at highest remaining seeds)
Game 7: Game 6 winner vs. Game 3 winner (7:00 Game 8: Game 5 winner vs. Game 4 winner (7:00 PM)
Championship Sunday, March 10 (at highest remaining seed)
Game 9: Game 8 winner vs. Game 7 winner (1:00 PM)