PHILADELPHIA – The wait is over! The Saint Anselm College women's basketball team earned its first-ever 2019 NCAA Division II Women's Basketball East Region Championship with a 63-61 victory over Le Moyne College on Monday at the University of the Sciences.
Saint Anselm, the seventh seed in the East Region entering the championship, improves to 22-9 and has locked down a spot in the 2019 Division II Women's Elite Eight, which will be held in Columbus, Ohio starting on Tuesday, Mar. 26. Playing in their fourth East Region title game in team history, Saint Anselm was able to lock down its first East Region championship since the program's varsity inception in the mid-1970's.
The Hawks upset three-straight teams in the East Regional, downing second-seed (and nationally ranked) Bentley in the first round before handing sixth-seeded Stonehill a loss in the semifinal round. Le Moyne (26-6) entered the championship game as the fourth seed. Saint Anselm entered the NCAA postseason with a combined 0-6 record against the three teams they toppled in the Division II Championship.
Head Coach Corey Boilard, in just his second season leading the Hawks, now owns a 39-21 (.650) winning percentage across 60 games since his hire.
In the last year, the Hawks have claimed two NCAA Division II East Region titles in women's sports as the softball team claimed its first-ever regional championship this past spring. The Hawks men's basketball program will be playing for its second-ever regional title on Tuesday at 7 p.m. against Saint Thomas Aquinas in Stoutenburgh Gymnasium.
More information regarding the Hawks historic appearance in the Elite Eight will be released in the coming days.
Sophomore Peyton Steinman (Pittsfield, Mass.) and junior Shannon Ryan (Plattsburgh, N.Y.) each scored 19 points with the former going 12-for-12 from the charity stripe en route to the victory. Ryan was an impressive 7-for-13 from the floor, pulling down seven boards to lead Saint Anselm. The duo were named to the NCAA East Region All-Tournament team for their performances.
The Hawks opened up a four-point lead with 4:20 left in the first quarter following a three-point basket by senior Ashley Briggs (Scarborough, Maine). The Dolphins would counter with a strong offensive stretch to build a four-point advantage of their own with 6:01 left in the first half. Saint Anselm carried a 33-27 lead into halftime as a Briggs jumper near the end of the stanza created the six-point bulge.
Saint Anselm opened the third quarter with six consecutive points, capping a dominant stretch by scoring 20 of the game's 24 points across a span of 8:20. The Hawks had a game-high lead of 12 points with 15:55 left in regulation time following a Messler jumper in the paint.
Le Moyne fired off 23 of the game's next 31 points, building a 50-47 advantage with 4:11 to go in regulation time. East Region Most Valuable Player McKayla Roberts had 16 of her team's 23 points across that span to carry her team offensively.
The Dolphins held their last lead with 2:09 to go as a Roberts jumper put Le Moyne ahead, 52-51. Seven free throws by the Hawks soon followed, creating a six-point lead with 28 seconds left to go. Le Moyne hit a clutch three with 16 ticks left on the scoreboard, but four Steinman free throws maintained a two-possession lead for her team as time expired.
The Hawks went 25-for-30 from the free throw line in the contest. Le Moyne shot nearly 44% from the floor and won the rebounding battle, 34-to-33, but the Dolphins were whistled for 25 of the game's 35 fouls.
Roberts finished with 35 points, leading the way for Le Moyne.