NCAA TOURNAMENT: Seniors Lift #11 Women's Basketball Past STAC, 63-52

Walsh scored 16 of her game-high 22 points in the second half to help the Skyhawks pull away. (PHOTO BY Mike Broglio/SportsPix)

Skyhawks advance to Monday's regional final against 3rd-seeded USciences at 7 p.m.

EASTON, Mass. (March 10, 2018) – Top-seeded Stonehill College, ranked No. 11 in both the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Division II poll and the D2SIDA Top 25 Media poll, continued its strong defensive play to diffuse No. 4-seeded Saint Thomas Aquinas College, receiving votes in the D2SIDA Top 25 Media poll, and post a 63-52 victory in second round action of the 2018 NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Tournament East Regional at Merkert Gymnasium tonight.

Stonehill (28-3, 20-1 NE10) advances to the NCAA East Regional Championship for the ninth time in program history, having also reached the regional final in its last NCAA appearance in 2015. The Skyhawks will face third-seeded University of the Sciences in Philadelphia (30-3, 17-2 CACC), ranked No. 16 in the WBCA poll and 20th in the D2SIDA poll, for the regional championship and a spot in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight on Monday at Merkert Gym at 7 p.m. The Devils advanced to the regional championship for the first time in program history with a 61-54 victory over second-seeded Bentley University, ranked 9th in the WBCA poll and 6th in the D2SIDA poll, in tonight's first game. St. Thomas Aquinas sees its season come to a close with a 27-5 record overall, including 16-2 in the East Coast Conference, winning the ECC Tournament to earn its second NCAA Tournament bid.

Martin filled the boxscore again with 17 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. (PHOTO BY Mike Broglio/SportsPix)

Stonehill's four senior starters led the way as they have so many times this season, combining for 53 of the Skyhawks 63 points and 20 rebounds. Senior Courtney Walsh (Windham, New Hampshire/Central Catholic) scored a game-high 22 points, including 16 in the second half, on 6-of-13 shooting, converting 6-of-7 free-throws, to surge to within ten points of becoming the 32nd student-athlete in program history and third on the team this year to reach 1,000 career points. She also contributed two assists and two steals.

Senior Kelly Martin (Scituate, Massachusetts/Scituate) scored 12 of her 17 points in the second half, finishing 7-for-14 from the floor, with five rebounds, four assists and two steals. Senior Elizabeth Grip (Shrewsbury, Massachusetts/ Shrewsbury) rounded out the Skyhawks scoring in double-figures with ten points on 5-of-6 shooting, four rebounds and three blocked shots, while classmate Samantha Hyslip (Westford, Massachusetts/Westford Academy) pulled down a team-high 11 boards and dished three assists.

Senior Alex Bertolino (Garnerville, New York/North Rockland) scored a team-high 16 points for St. Thomas Aquinas on 6-of-11 shooting. Senior Adiya Henderson (Troy, New York/Tamarac) and freshman Emily Preston (Brisbane, Australia) each contributed double-doubles for the Spartans. Henderson totaled 12 points and 11 rebounds (five offensive) with three blocked shots, while Preston tallied 11 points and ten boards with two blocks and two steals.

Stonehill outscored STAC 18-10 in the third quarter, making 8-of-17 shots compared to 2-for-11 from the Spartans, including 1-for-6 from beyond the arc, to break open a one-point halftime edge (26-25). The Skyhawks led by nine (23-14) after a Walsh three-pointer less than three minutes into the second. STAC outscored the hosts 11-3 over the remainder of the frame to pull back within a point (26-25) at the intermission, led by four points from Preston, a three-pointer by senior Jenna Erickson (Melrose, New York/Tamarac) and capped by a jumper from sophomore Skye Burris (Bayville, New York/St. Dominic's).

Bertolino buried a three-pointer to open the third quarter that nosed STAC in front for the first time since the opening minutes of the game, but Walsh answered at the other end with a three of her own and later added a jumper after a Martin layup to give Stonehill a five-point cushion (33-28) with 6:46 to play in the third. The Spartans were back within two (37-35) after a Bertolino layup, but the Skyhawks scored the final seven points of the third, including four by Martin around a Walsh three, to take a seven point edge into the final period.

Walsh tipped off the fourth frame with a three-pointer to push Stonehill's lead into double-figures for the first time (47-35). Martin followed with a triple of her own and then Walsh scored a layup to give the Skyhawks a 15 point lead (52-37) with 7:19 remaining. STAC wouldn't go quietly, closing the gap to seven (53-46) when Preston made one of two from the free-throw line with 2:57 to go.

Martin converted a three-point play at the other end to restore Stonehill's double-figure lead (56-46) with two minutes left, and then Grip scored a jumper with 1:11 remaining that gave the Skyhawks a 12-point lead and clinch the win. Stonehill converted 5-of-6 free-throws from there to see off the contest.

For the latest on Stonehill Athletics, follow the Skyhawks via social media on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Fans can also download the Stonehill Skyhawks "Front Row" mobile app, powered by PrestoSports, on iTunes and the Android Market.