WALTHAM, Mass. – Sophomore guard Katie Meriggioli (Waunakee, Wis./Edgewood HS) stuffed the stat sheet with 21 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and two steals as the Bentley University Falcons advanced to the semifinals for the 35th time in 38 years with a start-to-finish 68-55 win over American International College in the quarterfinals of the Northeast-10 Conference Women's Basketball Championships Sunday afternoon at the Dana Center.
The defending champion Falcons, 27-2 with a 14-game winning streak, will host Saint Anselm College, an 85-81 winner over Adephi University, Thursday at 7:00 pm. Bentley was the number one seed out of the Northeast Division and Saint Anselm was the Northeast's number three seed.
Bentley scored the game's first five points and vaulted out to a 17-5 lead about five-and-a-half minutes into the contest. After senior guard Megan Lewis (Sevenoaks, England) opened the scoring and put the Falcons in front to stay with a left corner three-ball, Meriggioli had nine of her team's next 15 points. She made a pair of free throws after an offensive rebound, a three-point play the traditional way, a triple from the right corner and a lay-up off a fast break.
The Yellow Jackets, who finished their season at 16-14, got within five a couple times early in the second quarter. A Lewis steal and lay-up, followed by a second-chance basket from junior forward Monica Viapiano (Holden/Holy Name HS), returned the lead to double figures, 28-18, and Bentley went into the break up nine, 35-26.
A 7-0 third-quarter burst made it a 46-32 lead with 3:39 to play. Meriggioli had five of the seven with a three-point play and a fast-break lay-up.
AIC never got closer than nine the rest of the way and the difference hit a game-high 16 for the first time when junior guard Maddy Springfield (Jaffrey, N.H./Conant HS) made two free throws with 42.8 seconds to play. Those were part of eight that the Falcons sank from the line in the final 68 seconds to lock up the victory.
Meriggioli's third double-double in the last four games saw her make 7 of 11 shots overall and all six of her free throw attempts.
Bentley received 12 points apiece from its two post players, Viapiano and senior center Victoria Lux (Arundel, Maine/Thornton Academy), with Viapiano adding eight rebounds in her 16:56 off the bench. Lux surpassed 1,200 career points in the process, becoming the 22nd Falcon to achieve that mark.
Lewis followed with nine points, five rebounds, three helpers and two steals, and Springfield scored eight.
AIC senior Dana Watts (Rochester, N.Y.) became the Yellow Jackets' all-time leading scorer as she scored 22 to finish her career with 2,202 points, second most in NE10 history. Watts, who struggled through an 8-for-20 shooting day, also had ten rebounds.
Guard Alyssa Guyon (Ludlow), also a senior, followed with 15 points and six rebounds.
Bentley defeated Saint Anselm twice during the regular season, 60-51 on the road Dec. 8 and 69-54 at home Feb. 16.