NCAA TOURNAMENT: #12 Stonehill Surges Past Franklin Pierce, 78-66

Junior Mary Louise Dixon posted her fourth double-double of the year as she scored 25 of her career-best 32 points in the second half to lead the Skyhawks comeback win. (PHOTO BY SportsPix)

Second-seeded Skyhawks overcome slow start behind career-best 32 from Dixon

BROCKTON ENTERPRISE: "Stonehill's Dixon spells double trouble for Franklin Pierce"

WALTHAM, Mass. (March 15, 2013) – Second-seeded Stonehill College, ranked 12th in this week's USA TODAY Sports/Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Division II poll, held seventh-seeded Franklin Pierce University under 30-percent shooting in the second half and overcame its sixth double-figure deficit of the season to claim a 78-66 victory in opening round action of the NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Tournament East Regional, hosted by top-seeded and No. 3-ranked Bentley University, at the Dana Athletic Center this afternoon.

Stonehill (24-4, 19-3 NE-10) advances to tomorrow's second round where it will face third-seeded and No. 10-ranked Dowling College (26-3, 17-1 ECC) here at the Dana Center at 5 p.m. The winner will advance to Monday's East Regional Championship game at 7 p.m. Dowling posted a 62-51 triumph over sixth-seeded ECC rival New York Institute of Technology (23-6, 14-4 ECC) in today's opening game of the regional to punch its ticket to the regional semifinals. Franklin Pierce sees its season come to a close with an 18-11 record overall, including a 14-8 clip in the NE-10, having made its sixth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance and tenth overall.

"Dowling is a very talented team with a strong post presence," said Stonehill head coach Trisha Brown, the Northeast-10 Conference Coach of the Year. "I know by tomorrow we will be really well prepared. This group's understanding of matchups and how to play individual players has been great this season and they are really a good group who are students of the game."

Junior Asia Ewing scored 11 of her 19 points in the first half to keep the Skyhawks in the game. (PHOTO BY SportsPix)

Junior guard Mary Louise Dixon (Wellesley, Mass./Wellesley) scored 25 of her game and career-high 32 points in the second half to lead the Stonehill comeback as she posted her fourth double-double of the season (seventh career) by adding a game-high 12 rebounds (ten second half), five assists and a steal. She was 8-for-13 from the field, including 3-for-5 from three-point range, and converted all 13 of her free-throw attempts in 40 minutes of play. It marks the most points ever scored in NCAA Tournament play by a Stonehill player, surpassing a trio of 28 point games most recently accomplished by Stonehill Hall of Famer Michelle Doonan against Bentley in 1994. Her 13 made free-throws is also a school-record in NCAA Tournament play. Dixon moves within 16 points of becoming the program's 27th 1,000-point scorer.

"(Dixon) makes us go, she's a great floor leader," said Brown. "But what really stood out for me today was that she got her points by working hard defensively, getting the ball off the glass and pushing the ball in transition. She did a great job of keeping us organized and executing our offense. Her poise overall led to how well she scored the ball."

Junior Asia Ewing (Westford, Mass./Westford Academy) scored 11 of her 19 points in the first half to keep Stonehill in the game, shooting 8-for-13, including 2-for-5 from beyond the arc, and converting her lone free-throw attempt while chipping in three assists. Classmate Abbey Lalime (Orleans, Vt./Lake Region Union) added a career-best nine points (all second half) with three assists.

Stonehill finished shooting 47.2-percent (25-for-53) from the field, including 56% (14-for-25) in the second half as the Skyhawks connected on 6-of-11 (54.5%) three-pointers after hitting on just 1-of-9 (11.1%) in the opening frame. Stonehill also connected on 21-of-22 (95.5%) free-throws on the afternoon, including all 17 tries in the second half. The Skyhawks finished with a 40-34 rebounding advantage after being minus one (20-19) at halftime and registered a 16-8 edge in bench points.

Senior Amanda Saab (Windham, N.H.) spearheaded Franklin Pierce as she scored 16 of her team-best 24 points in the first half to lead the Ravens to an eight point (35-27) halftime lead. She shot 9-for-18 from the field, including 4-for-9 from three-point range, and converted 2-of-4 free-throws to go with a team-high eight rebounds. Freshman Kara Charette (Fairhaven, Mass.) added 19 points (ten first half) on 5-of-10 shooting from the field and a 9-for-11 effort at the free-throw line with seven rebounds (five offensive).

Highlights and Postgame Interviews
Postgame Press Conference

Franklin Pierce was held to 32.3-percent (21-for-65) shooting from the field, including 9-for-32 (28.1%) in the second half as the Ravens made just 1-of-9 (11.1%) three-pointers after connecting on 4-of-10 (40%) in the opening frame. Franklin Pierce converted 19-of-23 (82.6%) free-throw attempts on the afternoon and turned the ball over just ten times.

Franklin Pierce led by as much as 12 points in the first half, but Stonehill got a key turnover near midcourt with 1.5-seconds left in the frame and a layup from Ewing off a Dixon feed as time expired to close within eight (35-27) at the half. Stonehill opened the second half with an 11-3 run to take its first lead of the game after a three-pointer from sophomore Jamie Panton (Essex Junction, Vt./Essex) with 16:45 remaining. Five different Skyhawks scored during the opening run.

"I thought we started a little rusty," said Brown. "But it was just about understanding what we do and getting back to doing what we do well. You have to give (Dixon and Ewing) a lot of credit in how they communicated with their teammates and kept us poised and focused on the right things."

Dixon connected on a three-pointer to give Stonehill a three point lead (41-38) with 15:48 left and Franklin Pierce responded with nine straight points reclaim a six point advantage (47-41) after a layup from junior Brittany Martelle (Brookfield, Conn.) with 10:23 remaining as four different Ravens scored points during the rush that was sparked by a Saab three. Stonehill answered that run by scoring ten straight points, sparked by back-to-back three-pointers by Ewing and Dixon, to regain a lead it would not relinquish.

It marked the start of a larger 18-4 run for Stonehill that saw the lead extend to eight points (59-51) on a Lalime three-pointer with 6:52 to go. The Skyhawks pushed their lead into double-digits for the first time (64-53) with a Dixon layup with 4:07 on the clock and the lead wouldn't go below eight points the rest of the way. Stonehill converted all eight of its free-throws, including four from Dixon, in the final 1:33 to seal the win and extend the lead to as much as 14 on two occasions in the final minute before settling on the 12 point (78-66) final margin.

"Franklin Pierce is an experienced team and we knew they would start out strong," said Dixon. "I was a little disappointed in my play in the first half and I wanted to be a little more aggressive in the second. We just needed to come out and play our game."

Franklin Pierce scored the first five points of the game and ten of the first 12, including five from Saab, on its way to a ten point lead (15-5) after a Charette layup before the game was four minutes old. The Ravens pushed the lead to 11 (22-11) on a layup by junior Kate McDonald (Fall River, Mass.) with 10:50 to play in the half, before the advantage grew to 12 (29-17) with a Saab three with 7:44 to go before halftime. Stonehill stemmed the tide by scoring six of the final eight points in the half to close within eight (35-27) at the break on Ewing's buzzer-beating layup.  

"I loved how we finished the half and how the (team) battled possession by possession," said Brown. "(At halftime) we talked about how we've been here before and been behind by more this season and how we have a really strong second half team, so we felt confident that we could come back."  

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