* Wednesday was the penultimate game night in the ECC with four games to check out. The playoff picture, while clearer (five of the six entrants are set but only one has a definitive seed), still has plenty to flesh out. The report begins with the closest contest of the night...
* Bridgeport slid past LIU Post at Hubbell Gym to eliminate the Pioneers from ECC playoff contention, 81-76. The result pulls the Purple Knights even with idle NYIT for fifth place in the ECC (and, in fact, clinches a playoff place for the Bears) and allows them to control their own destiny. Balance (six players in double digits) and good shooting (49% FG, 8-16 3FG, 17-20 FT) proved to be the vital components for UB, who have now won three in a row. An imbedded 11-0 run helped the hosts take a 23-12 lead after one period and their advantage peaked at 30-14 early in the second quarter. The Pioneers put together 10-2 and 8-0 runs to chop the deficit to 36-32 by halftime and eventually pulled into a 40-40 tie in the opening minutes of the second half. UB answered with a 14-4 burst (54-44, 1:40 of the third period) and never trailed again. LIU Post showed resolve to close the gap and came within a pair (77-75) with 19 seconds left in the game after a Kylie Garrett (16 points, 4-9 3FG) trey but Evelyn Ovner (12 points, 6 rebounds) and Camera Miley (18 points, 8 assists, 7 steals) both went 2-2 at the line thereafter to ice the win for UB. Nicole Johnson (15 points) was among the other double digits scorers for Bridgeport as they out-scored LIU Post in points-off-turnovers (25-20) despite committing eight more giveaways (26-18). Mikaiya Moore (13 points), Shannon Doyle (12 points, 6 assists) and Sasha Patterson (10 points, 8 rebounds) kept the Pioneers in range but their shooting numbers (39% FG, 5-20 3FG) didn't stack up with Bridgeport. A Purple Knight win on Saturday at UDC locks in their playoff spot; a loss coupled with a win by Daemen (over Roberts Wesleyan) will mean tie-breakers come into play.
* ECC champion Queens prevailed in Amherst over Daemen, 84-66, to put the Wildcats between a rock and hard place as far as playoff qualification goes. The Knights showed good balance (all five starters in double digits) and grabbed the lead for good in the first period thanks to a late 11-2 run. QC scored the first eight points of the second quarter to extend the margin to double digits (28-15), which is where it remained. The halftime tally was 42-25 and the closest the Wildcats came thereafter was via an 11-2 surge, slicing the arrears to 58-47 late in the third period. Madison Rowland (23 points, 13 boards, 6 assists), Beth Bonin (17 points), Merrick Rowland (15 points) and MacKenzie Rowland (12 points, 14 caroms) led the troops for Queens, who take a sixteen-game winning streak into the playoffs in search of their third straight ECC tournament title. Sarah Saba (22 points, 8 rebounds), Jordan Heinold (15 points) and Leah McDonell (14 points) supplied the majority of the offense for Daemen but they fell short in every shooting category as well as being out-rebounded by the Knights, 49-36. The Wildcats must beat Roberts Wesleyan on Saturday and hope for a Bridgeport loss to have a shot at a playoff spot (they hold the tie-breaker over UB). Should NYIT, UB and Daemen end up even after Saturday's action, the Bears will take fifth place and the Wildcats get sixth. Meanwhile, Queens is off until March 4, when they play in the ECC semifinals.
* St. Thomas Aquinas did what they had to do in order to stay in contention for second place in the ECC (and a bye right into the semifinals) by wiping out Mercy, 66-21. The Mavericks point total is the lowest of the season in the region (by ten points) and tied for the fewest in the last five seasons (see below). The Spartans broke a 2-2 tie with the last eleven points of the first period and the rout was on; by the half it was a 34-6 game, Mercy having shot 2-22 from the field to that juncture. The Mavericks shooting improved slightly in the second half (they ended 7-47 FG, 15%) but the game was obviously long decided. Jenna Erickson (13 points), Julia Winnik (12 points, 4-5 3FG) and Lauren Melville (10 points) led the STAC scoring (eleven players scored) as they made 10-18 from three-point land and doubled up Mercy on the glass, 54-27. No Maverick scored more than five points (Casey Sullivan) and they were battered in second-chance points (23-2) and points-off-turnovers (31-3), the latter despite committing only four more miscues (19-15). St. Thomas Aquinas has finished their regular season and holds a half-game lead over Molloy for second place; should Molloy win on Saturday over LIU Post, they Lions get second place, if not, STAC takes it.
* Mercy's point total against St. Thomas Aquinas is the fewest by a regional team since February 10, 2013, when St. Anselm put up the same number in a 61-21 loss to Bentley. Since the start of the 2003-'04 season, regional teams have scored in the 20's thirty-two times times, including the two already referenced. However, the fewest number of points scored by a regional team in that span is 17, which occured during Southern Connecticut's win over Mercy on December 12, 2003 (59-17).
* Molloy ended a three-game slide with a 72-53 victory over the University of the District of Columbia, keeping the Lions in the mix for second place in the ECC (see above). The second quarter was the deciding factor here, as Molloy held the Firebirds without a field goal and seized control during that span. Molloy closed the first frame with the final five points, grabbing a 27-22 lead. Shantrel Oliver, who notched her 1,000th career point for UDC during the contest, sank two free throws early in the second half to make it 27-24 but the Firebirds were shut out the rest of the half, going into the break trailing 40-24. UDC shot 0-9 from the floor (with four turnovers) in the second period to doom their chances. A 10-3 Molloy binge to kick off the third frame made it 50-27 and confirmed the outcome. Kamala Thompson (22 points, 6-8 3FG) led the way for the Lions with aid from Kathryn Gibson (12 points, 4-7 3FG) and Shantana Kanhoye (11 points, 7 boards) while Oliver (23 points, 8 caroms) and Kaiya Coleman (13 points) topped the UDC stat sheet. Molloy won the glass battle (48-39) and shot better (39%-29% FG) to help clinch a playoff spot and stay in the race for a first round bye.
* This week's NCAA Division II East Regional rankings were released yesterday with the ten teams listed the same as last week, in much the same order. Adelphi, Queens, Bentley and Caldwell comprise the top four while Sciences (5) and Molloy (6) are also in the top six. Assumption (7), St. Anselm (8), AIC (9) and Bloomfield (10) round out the top ten. The poll was taken prior to any action this week.