PHILADELPHIA – For the second-straight day at the NCAA Division II East Region Championship, the seventh-seeded Saint Anselm College women's basketball team toppled a higher-ranked opponent. On Saturday at the University of the Sciences, the Hawks downed No. 6-seeded Stonehill (20-10) in the East Region semifinals by a 59-50 margin.
Saint Anselm (21-9) advances to the East Region Championship game for the first time since the 1994-95 season and will take on fourth-seeded Le Moyne on Monday, Mar. 18 at 7 p.m. The Dolphins notched a come-from-behind win over nationally-ranked (and host) University of the Sciences in the earlier semifinals contest, earning a right to play for the East Region title.
By defeating the reigning East Region champions, the Hawks have reached 21 overall wins for the first time since the 1994-95 season. Saint Anselm, led by second-year Head Coach Corey Boilard, is in the hunt for it's first-ever East Region title, earning a spot in the regional finals on three prior occasions.
In its two East Region postseason games, the Hawks have limited each opponent to under 30% shooting.
Juniors Shannon Ryan (Plattsburgh, N.Y.) and Sara Messler (Durham, N.H.) tallied 14 points apiece with Ryan adding a game-high 15 rebounds and four blocks. Messler also pulled down four rebounds in the winning effort. Sophomore Peyton Steinman (Pittsfield, Mass.) handed out three assists and struck for 11 points. The Hawks held edges in rebounding (42-to-41) and field goal percentage (34.5%-to-28.8%).
With the score tied at 46 in the game's last 3:38, the Hawks used an 11-0 run to lock down a victory over the Skyhawks. Eight of those points came at the free throw line as Stonehill was whistled for the game's final five fouls. Senior Ashley Briggs (Scarborough, Maine) had four of those made free throws, helping the Hawks to victory.
Stonehill got off to a fast start, creating an early 7-2 lead in the game's first 1:56 following five-straight points by Kayla Raymond to open the Saturday evening affair. Saint Anselm answered with an 8-0 run to capture a 9-7 lead, finishing the first quarter with a two-point lead. The Hawks scored three fast-break points and had six points under the basket in the opening 10 minutes.
Messler made all seven of her team's first second quarter points as the Hawks would stretch their lead to eight points with 2:36 to go in the first half. The Hawks offensive attack was fueled by 10 points off of Stonehill second-quarter turnovers.
The Skyhawks rallied to take a one point lead, 34-33, with 4:33 to go in the second quarter. Saint Anselm saw a clutch three-point basket from sophomore Grace Guachione (Pittsfield, Mass.) with 1:22 to go in the third, propelling the Hawks into the lead by a 38-36 margin. Stonehill had a last-second jumper find the bottom of the basket, reducing Saint Anselm's lead to 40-38 heading into the fourth quarter.
The teams traded points to begin the fourth, but Stonehill drew the game even twice near the beginning portion of the quarter. The score was deadlocked at 42 with 5:33 to go and after a four-point scoring stretch by the Hawks, Stonehill notched four consecutive points thanks to two fast-break layups by Isabella Santoro.
Stonehill was led by Raymond's 16 points and seven rebounds.