* Saturday was all about the semifinals in the CACC and ECC. Chalk held in the former but there was a big surprise in the latter, which is where we begin...
* NYIT stunned defending champion Queens in the ECC semis at Bridgeport's Harvey Hubbell Gym, 76-71, to reach their first conference final in twenty-six years. Nina Vukosavljevic tossed in a career-high 30 points (10-15 FG, 4-6 3FG, 6-6 FT) to lead the Bears attack and she was supported nicely by Margaret Knollmeyer (16 points, 10 boards), Shanice Allen (14 points), Tiara Place (10 points) and Sofia Georgiadi (13 caroms). The Knights rode the coattails of Madison Rowland (28 points, 12 rebounds) and MacKenzie Rowland (21 points, 16 rebounds) but, unlike NYIT, the top seed had minimal depth (Joya McFarland's 8 points topped the rest of the roster). NYIT led almost all the way, taking a 39-24 with 2:38 left in the first half. QC ended the frame with a 9-2 run (NYIT, 41-33) and closed the third quarter on a 7-2 binge to trim the deficit to 57-53. NYIT stayed ahead and stretched the gap to 65-55 (7:35) after a Vukosavljevic trey yet they were not out of the woods. A 16-5 explosion, completed by a MacKenzie Rowland basket, allowed QC to take their first and only lead, 71-70, with 1:03 to go. Knollmeyer cashed in on a third chance opportunity for NYIT by making a pair of free throws to send them back on top, 72-71. Madison Rowland misfired at the other end and Vukosavljevic sank two foul shots with eight ticks left to make it 74-71. Merrick Rowland's attempt at a game-tying trey missed and Vukosavljevic iced it with two more FT's at the :03 mark. The Knights saw a sixteen-game winning streak go by the boards but will surely earn an at-large NCAA bid tomorrow night. The #5 seed Bears shot better than Queens (43%-35% FG; 6-18 3FG to Queens' 4-17 3FG total) and were perfect at the line (14-14 FT). The last time NYIT won a conference crown was 1991, when the league was still known as the NYCAC. They'll face Molloy for the championship tomorrow at high noon.
* A dominant second half propelled Molloy to a 75-55 win over St. Thomas Aquinas at Bridgeport, securing a place in the ECC final for the first time since 2010 (they won on that occasion). The third-seeded Spartans led for the duration of the first half with their edge cresting at nine points. Molloy, the #2 seed, notched the last seven points of the half, though, to close the gap to 32-31. The Lions scored the first five points of the second half (12-0 overall) and claimed a lead they never relinquished, 36-32. Defense was their most effective attribute in the third frame, holding STAC to just 1-12 from the floor. By the end of the period it was a 50-40 game and the die was cast. Molloy continued to extend the lead and pulled away in the fourth quarter, ending the Spartans title hopes. Balance was vital for the winners with Kamala Thompson, Aliyah McDonald (14 points each), Ihnacinse Grady (13 points, 5 assists), Symone Kelly (13 points, 6 boards) and Maggie Salomone (11 points, 3-4 3FG) sharing the load. Samantha Burden (17 points, 14 rebounds) and Jenna Erickson (16 points) provided the bulk of the STAC offense but they were out-shot in every area, inclduing overall (52%-33%), from three-point land (Molloy 7-16; STAC 4-15 3FG) and at the line (Molloy 22-27; STAC 15-17 FT). The Lions, a likely NCAA at-large recipient if they don't annex the ECC title, will take on NYIT tomorrow for the title.
* The CACC tourney host and North Division champion Caldwell had little trouble dispatching Dominican in their semifinal meeting, rolling to an 83-57 success. The Cougars won all four quarters to extend their winning streak to ten in a row, receiving strong games from Sharell Sanders (22 points, 5 assists, 5 boards, 3-5 3FG), Kristen Drogsler (13 points, 6-9 FG) and Kristen Siscamanis (12 points) to lead the way. Caldwell started and ended the first period with 9-0 runs and led 24-10 after the period and then used another 9-0 spell to push the lead to 34-12. The Chargers put up a 9-0 run in response but Caldwell scored the last six points of the half to make it a 43-24 game at the interval. DC played the Cougars on a more level basis in the second half yet never made any sort of serious run and end their season as a result. Stefani Alston led the DC attack with 19 points, a dozen more than any other Charger. Caldwell was sharp from the field (53% FG) and defended well at the other end (DC shot 31%) while also grabbing ten more rebounds (43-33). The Cougars meet CACC South Division winner University of the Sciences in tomorrow's title game.
* An impressive performance from the University of the Sciences sends them into tomorrow's CACC championship game as the Devils throttled Bloomfield, 68-49, to win their program-record 25th game. The Devils shot a blistering 63.6% (28-44 FG) and backed that up with a +12 on the glass (33-21), all part of an effort that had them ahead all the way. Sciences jumped to a 14-3 lead and tallied the last six points of the first half to tote a 30-17 lead into the break. A 12-4 burst to start the third period made it 42-21 (6:11) and their defense didn't allow back-to-back Bears baskets until the tail end of the frame (53-33). The Devils put the game on ice with a 13-3 jaunt to start the fourth quarter (66-36); Bloomfield's late 13-2 run only served to create a closer final score. Sarah Abbonizio (18 points), Alex Thomas (16 points, 9 rebounds) and Colleen Walsh (13 points) nearly matched the BC total between them to head the Sciences scoring. Jahniece Jaffe and Deja McKenzie topped the Bloomfield scoring from the bench with 12 points each and McKenzie added six rebounds to her stat line. The Bears starters converted only seven field goals (7-26 FG) as the team struggled to shoot all night (32% FG, 5-22 3FG) and they are firmly on the NCAA at-large bubble going into tomorrow night's tournament announcement. Sciences, now on an eight-game winning streak, will face Caldwell for the CACC crown tomorrow.