WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – Despite resurging for a 12-3 fourth-quarter comeback to take a one-point lead, the No. 3 seed University of Massachusetts Dartmouth slipped to No. 2 seed Keene State in the closing minute, with the Owls holding on for a 66-61 win in the Little East Conference Championship semifinals on Saturday evening.
Score: Keene State 66, UMass Dartmouth 61
Records: Keene State (20-7, 11-3 LEC) | UMass Dartmouth (22-5, 11-3 LEC)
How it Happened
The UMass Dartmouth post duo of Nakira Examond (New Bedford, Mass.) and Alicia Kutil (Franklin, Mass.) each went for 14 points apiece, with Examond securing her 10th double-double of the season with 12 rebounds. Adi Alicea-Cordero (Dorchester, Mass.) was the Corsairs' next-leading scorer, totaling eight points.
On the opposite end, Keene State saw three of its starters reach double-figures, with Lydia Vital (Worcester, Mass.) totaling a game-high 15 points, and senior Stephanie D'Annolfo (Tyngsborough, Mass.) generated a 14-point, 10-rebound outing.
UMass Dartmouth came out of the gate cleanly, hitting its spots down low and reach the foul line to go up two before the end of the first quarter. Less than two minutes into the second frame, sophomore Kailyn Milligan (Lakeville, Mass.) drove in for the layup and foul, converting the traditional 3-point play and putting the Corsairs up five. After Keene State drew even once again, six-straight UMass Dartmouth points kept the slight edge, and Alicea-Cordero notched a foul shot with zeros on the clock to give her team a 31-29 intermission lead.
Momentum then quickly swung the way of the Owls, who burst out to a 12-0 run to begin the second half. The stone-cold Corsairs wouldn't register a field goal until seven and half minutes into the third, when Danyel Gonzalez (Providence, R.I.) buried a 3-pointer. Keene State converted on 10-of-17 from the field in the third, holding a nine-point lead to start the fourth, but the Corsairs countered. A 12-3 streak in favor of UMass Dartmouth knotted the score at 57 with 5:39 remaining as Examond registered a put-back layup.
Senior Rachel McCarron (Groton, Mass.) once again tied the margin with two minutes left, but the final moments would belong to Keene State. A Vital 3-pointer and free throws by Kenzie Bennett (Lake George, N.Y.) bumped the Owls up five, and despite another McCarron bucket Bennett sunk two more from the stripe to seal the game.
Inside the Numbers
- Currently ranked No. 5 in the Northeast regional rankings, UMass Dartmouth will await the possibility of an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III Championship when the field is announced Monday.
- Regardless of bid potential, UMass Dartmouth will close the 2016-17 season as the winningest team in program history with 22 overall and 11 LEC victories.
- The Corsairs were ultimately doomed by a 12-of-21 (57 percent) performance from the foul line despite surrendering a season-low 10 turnovers.
- UMass Dartmouth was outrebounded (40-39) for just the first time since Jan. 28 and only the fifth time on the season.
- Keene State will meet top-seeded Eastern Connecticut in Sunday's LEC Championship for the second-straight year. The Owls seek to avenge last season's loss to the Warriors, who are in pursuit of their third-straight conference title.