ELITE AGAIN! #11 Women's Basketball Defeats #16/20 USciences for Regional Crown, 71-61

Carter scored a career-best 15 points on perfect 5-for-5 shooting, including 4-of-4 from deep. (PHOTO BY Mike Tureski/SportsPix)

Martin earns Regional Most Outstanding Player in leading Skyhawks to first Elite Eight in 23 years

EASTON, Mass. (March 12, 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, is heading back to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight for the first time in 23 years after posting a 71-61 triumph over third-seeded University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, ranked No. 16 in the WBCA poll and 20th in the D2SIDA poll, in the NCAA Tournament East Regional Championship on Paula Sullivan Court at Merkert Gymnasium tonight.

Stonehill (29-3, 20-1 NE10) clinches its third regional championship in program history, but its first since it last hosted the event in 1995 .The Skyhawks will compete at the Division II Elite Eight at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, next week. Stonehill will play a national quarterfinal on Monday, March 19, against an opponent to be determined after the NCAA Division II National Selection Committee seeds the remaining eight teams tomorrow morning. Stonehill, playing in the regional final for the ninth time in program history, made back-to-back Elite Eight appearances in 1994 and 1995 under former head coach and athletic director Paula Sullivan.

Martin was named the regional's Most Outstanding Player, finishing tonight with 18 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. (PHOTO BY Mike Tureski/SportsPix)

USciences sees its season come to a close with a 30-4 record overall, including 17-2 in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference, capturing the regular season and tournament championships on its way to a program record for wins and its fourth NCAA Tournament bid, reaching the regional final for the first time.

Senior Kelly Martin (Scituate, Massachusetts/Scituate) earned the regional's Most Outstanding Player honors, finishing with a team-high 18 points, converting all eight of her free-throws, to go with eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals. Classmates Elizabeth Grip (Shrewsbury, Massachusetts/Shrewsbury) and Courtney Walsh (Windham, New Hampshire/Central Catholic) joined Martin on the East Regional's All-Tournament team. Grip added 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, with four rebounds (three offensive) and two blocked shots, while Walsh chipped in with eight second-half points, moving within a pair of becoming the program's 32nd 1,000-point scorer, and adding three assists and two boards.

Sophomore Grace Carter (Arlington, Massachusetts/Arlington) made all five of her shots from the field, including four three-pointers, in scoring a career-best 15 points to go with a career-high matching five rebounds.

Senior Sarah Abbonizio (West Chester, Pennsylvania/Episcopal Academy) and junior Alex Thomas (Hockessin, Delaware/St. Elizabeth) represented USciences on the regional All-Tournament team. Abbonizio led the Devils with a game-high 27 points on 9-of-18 shooting, but just 1-for-7 from three-point distance, converting 8-of-10 free-throws to go with six rebounds. Thomas added 11 points, five rebounds and two steals, while freshman Irisa Ye (Lansdale, Pennsylvania/North Penn) chipped in 11 points, three boards and three steals.

Stonehill finished shooting 47.1-percent from the field, including 6-for-10 in the second quarter, including 4-for-6 from three-point distance, and 7-for-13 in the fourth to close out the win. The Skyhawks limited the USciences offense to just 36.4% shooting, including 4-for-18 (22.2%) from beyond the arc, including 1-for-6 in the second half.

Stonehill held a four-point lead (16-12) after a back and forth opening quarter. Abbonizio opened the second quarter scoring before the Skyhawks got back-to-back three-pointers from Carter and Martin to grab an eight-point lead (22-14) three minutes into the frame. USciences followed with a 10-2 run to knot the score (24-24) after a three-pointer from senior Colleen Walsh (Downingtown, Pennsylvania/Shipley School) midway through the second.

Trisha Brown has led the Skyhawks to the Elite Eight for the first time in her 17 seasons at the helm for its third trip in program history overall. (PHOTO BY Mike Tureski/SportsPix)

Stonehill wouldn't relinquish the lead the rest of the way, however, with Carter answering this run with back to back three-pointers and then sophomore Gabrielle Reuter (Plymouth, Massachusetts/Lawrence Academy) making one of two at the line to restore a seven-point lead (31-24) 1:21 before the intermission. Reuter gave the Skyhawks a nine-point halftime lead (35-26) and then senior Samantha Hyslip (Westford, Massachusetts/Westford Academy) opened the third quarter with a basket to push the hosts lead into double-figures.

The teams traded baskets until USciences made a push with six-straight points, including four by Abbonizio, to draw within four (42-38) with 1:28 left in the third. The Devils were back within two (44-42) heading into the fourth quarter after sophomore Jordan Vitelli (Warrington, Pennsylvania/Central Bucks South) closed out the frame with a layup.

Walsh and freshman Jennifer Worden (Abington, Massachusetts/Abington) opened the fourth quarter with back-to-back baskets to secure the lead for Stonehill. Thomas answered with four-straight to pull USciences back within two (48-46) with 8:30 remaining, but a Grip layup and Walsh triple restored a seven point Skyhawks advantage a minute later.

USciences was within five (55-50) after two Abbonizio free-throws midway through the final quarter, but Stonehill got baskets from junior Maty Diabate (Holden, Massachusetts/Wachusett  Regional) and Worden to open up a nine-point lead (59-50) with 4:18 to play. The Skyhawks would keep the Devils at arm's length the rest of the way, stretching their lead to ten (65-55) after two Grip free-throws with 1:57 remaining and then converting 6-of-8 free-throws the rest of the way to close out the win and long awaited regional championship.

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