PHILADELPHIA – The seventh-seeded Saint Anselm College women's basketball team stunned the second-seeded and nationally-ranked Falcons from Bentley University on Friday, recording a convincing 59-40 victory in the NCAA Division II East Region Championship Quarterfinals.
Saint Anselm (20-9) reaches the 20-win plateau for the first time since the 1998-99 season, defeating Bentley for only the third time in the last 50 meetings between both programs. The Falcons, who lead all NCAA Division II programs with 35 appearances in the Division II Championship, see their season come to a close at 28-4.
Saint Anselm will take on sixth-seeded Stonehill, who upset third-seeded Jefferson by an 86-77 score earlier in the day, at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Mar. 16.
Sophomore Peyton Steinman (Pittsfield, Mass.) led Saint Anselm with 21 points and seven rebounds. Junior Shannon Ryan (Plattsburgh, N.Y.) had 10 points, pulling down five rebounds and throwing up four blocks, with senior Ashley Briggs (Scarborough, Maine) recording nine points and pouring home two three-point baskets.
A stout Hawks defense kept Bentley to only 16 made field goals in the contest and to only eight points in the first half, earning Saint Anselm's first NCAA postseason victory since Mar. 4, 1999, a 59-51 win over Franklin Pierce in Waltham, Mass. in the quarterfinal round. Bentley falls to the Hawks in NCAA Tournament play for the first time since Mar. 10, 1995.
The Hawks led by seven points through the first quarter, limiting Bentley to only six points in the game. A stout Saint Anselm defense kept the Falcons to only 2-for-14 shooting and Bentley committed seven turnovers in the first quarter alone. The big scoring squad for Saint Anselm came with a 5-0 run, capped by a driving layup by freshman Eva Mazur (South Portland, Maine). Bentley had nine turnovers in the game's first 12 minutes, allowing the Hawks to create a double-digit lead shortly into the second quarter. Saint Anselm grew the lead to 12 points following a three-point basket by Briggs and a jumper by Ryan, leading 18-6 with eight minutes left in the first half.
Ahead by 10, the Hawks used a six-point scoring run to boost its lead to 16 points, 24-8, with under three minutes to go. Steinman, junior Julia Thissell (Hopkinton, Mass.) and Ryan each had a bucket and Mazur buried a three, moving the Hawks ahead and giving them a 19-point advantage with under two to go.
Bentley owned the third quarter, outscoring the Hawks by a 16-13 margin, but Saint Anselm still owned the lead heading into the final 10 minutes of action. Late in the stanza, the Falcons made back-to-back three-point baskets to trim their deficit to 14 points, but two late free throws by Steinman recreated a lead of 16 points.
Saint Anselm used a 9-1 scoring run shortly into the fourth quarter put the game out of reach and a late basket by Steinman with 5:19 left in regulation time created a 22-point bulge. Saint Anselm had a game-high lead of 23 points, 53-30, with 4:28 to go and late free throws by the Hawks maintained a sizeable 19-point lead as time expired.
Bentley was kept to only 40 points, tying a season-low mark, and was led by 10 points from Katie Meriggioli. Victoria Lux posted nine points for Saint Anselm while Amy McConnell handed out five assists across 40 minutes of action for the Falcons.