* Championship Sunday provided a pair of close games and one that wasn't so close... and once it was all done, we had an NCAA East Regional field announced. The game recaps begin in Connecticut...
* ECC tournament Most Outstanding Player Aliyah McDonald's steal and basket with 42 seconds left put Molloy ahead for good in their nail-biting win over NYIT, 56-53. This was an extremely close game (nine ties, eleven lead changes) that didn't see a lead of more than five points either way all day long. The Bears enjoyed theirs early (11-6 with 3:45 left in the first quarter) and there was little separation until a 7-2 Lions run to end the first half gave them a 27-22 edge. NYIT's only lead of the third quarter came with 1:28 left (35-34) after a Nina Vukosavljevic (12 points) triple. Molloy ended the stanza with a 6-2 spell, all of their points from Maggie Salomone. Back-to-back buckets from Sofia Georgiadi and Margaret Knollmeyer (11 points, 19 rebounds) sent NYIT into a 51-47 lead with 1:59 left, only to see Molloy finish the clash on a 9-2 burst. Kathryn Gibson (12 points, 4-8 3FG) buried a three-pointer to start it (1:47) but Knollmeyer hit a free throw to push the lead to 52-50 for the Bears. Kamala Thompson (8 points, 11 rebounds) knotted it at the line with 57 seconds left and McDonald then came up with her steal/basket to put Molloy ahead, 54-52, with :42 to go. Kayla Correa split a pair of free throws at the :08 mark to get NYIT back within 54-53 but two freebies from McDonald (10 points, 4 steals) extended the gap to 56-53 (:06). Knollmeyer's three-pointer at the horn missed and Molloy had their first ECC crown since the 2010 campaign. The Lions had a better day from three-point land (6-25; NYIT 1-17 3FG), negating the Bears 43-33 rebound advantage, and claimed the ECC's automatic qualifier to the NCAA field as a result. NYIT's fine tournament run earned them an at-large bid to the tournament.
* Superb defense and timely scoring were the ingredients that allowed Adelphi to beat Bentley in the Northeast-10 title game, 67-59, in Garden City. The Panthers (who were 2015 NE-10 champions) held the Falcons (the defending champion) to 33% from the field and rode the offensive play of Most Outstanding Player Sierra Clark (19 points, 10 boards, 3 blocks) and Niajah Morgan (17 points) to the title. Jen Gemma (21 points, 10 rebounds) sparkled for the Falcons, who saw their fourteen-game win streak come to an end. Macchi Smith (11 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists) was productive for Bentley but they had difficulty scoring and also struggled from deep (5-20 3FG) and at the line (14-23 FT). The teams sparred for a while and the game was tied at 21 early in the second period when AU posted a 12-2 run (fueled by seven Clark markers) to go ahead for keeps, 33-23 (3:47). A Falcon rally sliced the deficit to 35-30 at the half and they stayed in range through the end of the third period (53-49). Victoria Lux scored to cut the Adelphi lead to 53-51 to start the fourth quarter but consecutive three-pointers from Morgan and Sierra Scharder increased the Panthers lead to 59-51 with 8:43 to play. Amy McConnell (9 points) sank a couple of three-pointers down the stretch for Bentley yet every time Adelphi had a response and never let the guests creep closer than five points. Calli Balfour (9 points, 7 boards) and Julia Gnieser (8 points) helped AU's depth as they shot 45% overall, made 6-14 from long distance and canned 11-13 at the line. Adelphi, unbeaten at home this season (15-0), will host the regional festival next weekend. Despite having their lengthy NE-10 tourney winning streak halted (it had been 17 straight with the last loss against Franklin Pierce in 2010) Bentley, as expected, recieved an at-large bid to the dance.
* Another sensational shooting game (52% FG, 9-22 3FG, 13-17 FT) helped the University of the Sciences knock off host Caldwell in the CACC final, 72-57, and annex their first crown (and NCAA bid) since 2006. A 14-2 spree early in the second quarter gave the Devils (who now own the region's longest winning streak, ten games) a 30-21 lead which they never let go. The Cougars managed to cut the arrears to 34-29 by the intermission but it was their last gasp. Sciences exploded for a 13-0 run to start the second half as the Cougars missed nine straight shots and suddenly it was a 47-24 game. The Devils were now in full control and the closest that the Cougars came thereafter was eleven points (66-55 with 2:25 left in the game). Most Outstanding Player Sarah Abbonizio (14 points) was one of four double digit Devils scorers, joined by Alex Thomas (17 points, 8 rebounds), Jordan Vitelli (16 points, 4-7 3FG) and Mikaela Giuliani (12 points). The Devils even won the glass battle, 38-27. Antoinette Pilla (20 points, 4-10 3FG) and Andie Lennon (13 points) topped the Cougar attack but their shooting was far below par (30% FG, 7-24 3FG), the team only bettering Sciences in the turnover category (14-7). Sciences earned the CACC's automatic bid to the NCAA field with the victory while Caldwell claimed an at-large bid and will make their tournament debut on Friday.
* The NCAA Division II tournament field was announced tonight and the East Regional's #1 seed and host is NE-10 kingpin, Adelphi. The Panthers will face the #8 seed, NYIT. The #2 seed is Queens, who meet #7 seed Assumption. #3 is Bentley, who encounter #6 seed, the University of the Sciences. Finally, #4 is Caldwell, who confront Molloy, the #5 seed. Details on game times will be revealed in the next few days with the tournament starting on Friday.