#14 Stonehill Takes Down #1 Bentley, 73-66

Sophomore Amy Pelletier scored 11 of her game-high 17 points in the first half and finished shooting 3-for-4 from beyond the arc. (PHOTO BY Bert Lane)

Skyhawks claim first win over top-ranked team in program history

EASTON, Mass. (February 23, 2013) – Stonehill College, ranked 14th in this week's USA TODAY Sports/Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Division II poll, claimed its first win over a top-ranked opponent in program history with a 73-66 triumph over No. 1 Bentley University in Northeast-10 Conference women's basketball action before a standing room only Alumni Day crowd at Merkert Gymnasium this afternoon.

The win is Stonehill's first in the program's 42-year history over a No. 1-ranked opponent, topping a 77-60 triumph over No. 2 College of Saint Rose in the 1997 NCAA Regional Tournament in Albany, N.Y. It marks the second time a top-ranked team has been defeated at Merkert Gym as the Stonehill men posted a 105-92 victory over preseason No. 1 University of Bridgeport (Street & Smith's) to open the 1991-92 season. The Skyhawks also snap Bentley's 37 game winning streak against East Region opponents with their first victory over the Falcons since a 74-56 decision in the first round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament, ending a string of five straight series setbacks.

Junior guard Mary Louise Dixon (Wellesley, Mass./Wellesley) engineered the win by scoring 16 points with five assists, four rebounds, three steals and a blocked shot. Sophomore Amy Pelletier (Beverly, Mass./Bishop Fenwick) scored 11 of her game-high 17 points in the first half as Stonehill broke out to an 11-point (39-28) halftime advantage by making all four shots from the field, including three three-pointers, as she finished shooting 5-for-6 from the field, including 3-for-4 from long range, and converted all four free-throw attempts in 26 minutes off the bench.

Junior Asia Ewing (Westford, Mass./Westford Academy) added 14 points, a team-high eight rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots for Stonehill, while sophomore Tori Faieta (Lynn, Mass./Saint Mary's) also contributed 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including her lone three-point attempt, five assists, four boards, two blocks and a steal. Sophomore Ashley Gendron (Auburn, N.H./Manchester Memorial) chipped in with six rebounds.

Senior Courtney Finn (Winthrop, Mass./Winthrop) and junior Lauren Battista (North Easton, Mass./Oliver Ames) combined for 32 points to lead the way for Bentley, with all but five of those points coming in the second half. Finn scored 13 of her 16 points after halftime, aided by an 8-for-9 effort at the free-throw line, to go with a game-high nine rebounds, two assists and two steals. Battista scored 14 of her 16 over the final 20 minutes, shooting 6-for-10 from the field and converting 4-of-5 free-throws, to go with eight boards, two assists, two steals and a blocked shot. Junior Jacqui Brugliera (Fitchburg, Mass./Wachusett Regional) added nine points and four rebounds for the Falcons.

Junior Mary Louise Dixon posted 16 points, five assists, four rebounds and three steals in the win. (PHOTO BY Bert Lane)

Stonehill finished shooting 47.3-percent (26-for-55) from the field, including 53.8-percent (14-for-26) in a first half in which the Skyhawks were shooting nearly 70 percent from the field for a large portion of the frame. The Skyhawks connected on 8-of-14 (57.1%) three-pointers, including 7-for-8 (87.5%) in the first half, and converted 13-of-17 (76.5%) free-throws. Bentley was held to 34.8-percent (23-for-66) shooting, including 33.3% (9-27) in the first half, making just 3-of-24 (12.5%) three-pointers while shooting 17-for-22 (77.3%) from the free-throw line. The Falcons finished with a 44-34 rebounding advantage, hauling in 16 offensive boards that resulted in a 15-5 edge in second chance points.

Both lead changes and the lone tie in the contest came in the opening two minutes before Stonehill used a 13-2 run to open a ten point lead (15-5) after a layup from freshman Paige Marshall (Braintree, Mass./Braintree) five minutes into the game, with Dixon and Faieta netting three-pointers to help fuel the run. After a Bentley layup at the other end from senior Caleigh Crowell (Harwich, Mass./Worcester Academy), Pelletier scored a triple to boost the lead to 11 (18-7) with 13:37 to play in the half.

Bentley closed back within five (20-15) after a three-pointer by sophomore Kelsey Mattice (Cicero, N.Y./Cicero North Syracuse) just over a minute later. Stonehill scored eight straight points, capped by back-to-back threes by Dixon and Ewing, to run the lead out to 15 (34-19) with seven minutes remaining. The Skyhawks extended the margin to 16 (39-23) when junior Abbey Lalime (Orleans, Vt./Lake Region Union) made one of two at the line with 2:31 left before halftime.

Stonehill settled on the 11 point (39-28) halftime lead, but opened the second half with a 13-5 spurt to open a game-high 19 point advantage (52-33) after a three-point play from Ewing with 14:20 remaining. The Skyhawks lead was still 18 (59-41) with a Gendron layup with 10:53 to go, but the NE-10 regular season champions wouldn't go out without a fight.

Bentley cut the gap to nine (59-50) after a Finn layup with 8:46 remaining, but Stonehill was able to hold. The Skyhawks pushed the lead back to 12 (64-52) when Faieta converted a three-point play with 6:32 remaining. The Falcons drew within six (68-62) on a Crowell three with 1:34 to play, but that would be as close as they would get as Stonehill made 5-of-8 free-throws over the final 48-seconds, including four straight by Pelletier, to hold Bentley at arm's length and clinch the victory.

Stonehill (22-3, 18-3 NE-10), ranked second in the first NCAA Division II East Regional rankings released this week, closes out the regular season on Tuesday when it visits Saint Anselm College for a Northeast-10 matchup at 5:30 p.m. The Skyhawks will be the No. 2 seed for the upcoming NE-10 Tournament and will open postseason play by hosting a quarterfinal round matchup on Sunday, March 3, in Merkert Gym at 1 p.m. Bentley (24-1, 20-1 NE-10), ranked first in the region, hosts UMass Lowell, among teams receiving votes nationally, on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.

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