QUINCY, Mass.- The No. 1 seeded Eastern Nazarene College women's basketball team is headed to the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) Tournament finals after earning a 54-44 semifinal win over fourth-seeded Becker Thursday evening at the Lahue Physical Education Center.
With the victory, the Lions improve to 21- 3 on the year and advance to the NECC championship game Saturday, February 29. The Hawks finish the year with a 12-15 overall record with the result.
Jenn Burnham (West Valley City, Utah) notched her first double-double of the season, pouring in 16 points and collecting 10 boards. Stevie Orton (Gilford, N.H.) finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Sydni Oviatt (Fruit Heights, Utah) netted 11 points off the bench while Kyra Fleharty (Lewistown, Mont.) registered 10 boards.
After a quick start by the hosts that yielded a 5-0 lead, the visitors battled back to level the contest at 5-5 with 5:05 left to play in the opening period.
Eastern Nazarene regained a five-point advantage with 2:12 on the clock in the first quarter on a free throw shot by Shante Slender (Kayenta, Ariz.), 10-5.
The Lions owned a narrow 10-8 edge through 10 minutes of action.
The hosts splashed back-to-back treys to widen the gap to 25-12 with 3:31 remaining in the second as Burnham and Oviatt both canned three-pointers.
Eastern Nazarene touted a 25-17 advantage at the halftime break after Becker chalked up the final five points of the second frame.
The Lions shot 29.4% from the floor and connected on 3-of-14 from beyond the arc in the opening two quarters. The Hawks sported a field-goal percentage of 25% at intermission while shooting 14.3% from the perimeter.
Burnham paced the home side with 10 points, eight boards, and three steals while Orton netted six points and grabbed five rebounds.
Cassidy Harrison scored nine-consecutive points to pull the visitors even at 29-29 with 2:12 left to play in the third period.
Eastern Nazarene captured a seven-point lead with 20 seconds on the clock as Fleharty banked in a layup, 38-31.
Becker cut the deficit to 38-34 as Harrison drained a three-pointer at the third period buzzer. The senior poured in all 17 of the Hawks' third-quarter points.
The Lions reclaimed a seven-point edge with 4:18 to go in regulation as Oviatt drilled her second trey of the night, 47-40.
A three-pointer by Oviatt from the right corner and by a fast-break layup by Orton extended the home team's advantage to double-digits late in the game to secure a berth to the NECC championship.
The Lions concluded the contest with a field-goal percentage of 37.3% to go with a 26.1% effort from three-point range. The Hawks were limited to 28% shooting from the floor and 11.8% shooting from long distance.
Harrison paced Becker with a game-high 21 points to go with nine steals and seven rebounds while Julia Campellone chipped in with eight points off the bench.
Looking ahead, top-seeded Eastern Nazarene will host No. 2 seed New England College in the NECC championship game Saturday, February 29 at 2:00 PM. The Lions will be making their conference championship game appearance since 1999-2000 and their first-ever trip to the NECC Tournament finals.
ABOUT THE NECC
The NECC began competition in the 2008-09 academic year and current member institutions compete across 15 sports. The NECC membership focuses on providing athletic competition among institutions that share similar academic aspirations and are committed to the importance of the total educational experience for students engaged in sports. Current members include Bay Path University, Becker College, Dean College, Eastern Nazarene College, Elms College, Lesley University, Mitchell College and New England College.
(Story courtesy of Eastern Nazarene Sports Information)