DARTMOUTH, Mass. - UMass Boston freshman Joie Grassi (Plymouth, Mass.) led all players with 26 points, including the most important made free throw late in the contest, to sink the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth en route to the Beacons' first-ever Little East Conference Championship, becoming the league's automatic qualifier for the NCAA Tournament.
Score: #2 UMass Boston 65, #1 UMass Dartmouth 56
Records: #2 UMass Boston 25-3, #1 UMass Dartmouth 24-4
How it Happened
Junior Nakira Examond (New Bedford, Mass.) re-imposed herself as a dominant post presence this afternoon, going for 25 points and 16 rebounds. To complement her seven offensive boards, she contributed a pair of assists and steals in her 14th double-double of the season. Senior Leah Douty (Framingham, Mass.) was the lone other Corsair to generate double-digit points, using three three-pointers to structure her 15 on offense.
In her first postseason, Grassi was no where near fazed by the magnitude of the contest, amassing a game-high 26 points to go along side nine boards to earn LEC Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament. Classmate Geanna Williams (Cromwell, Conn.) also rose to the occassion, going for 10 points, eight rebounds, two steals and three blocks.
After the Corsairs assumed an early 6-2 advantage, the Beacons burst for a 13-4 run mainly backed by eight straight scores by Grassi. UMass Boston went on to balloon their lead to 33-21 on a downtown connection by first-year Jalani Jackson (Brockton, Mass.), snatching all the momentum as the teams headed towards the locker room for halftime discussion.
Sensing the immensity of the final 20 minutes, the Corsairs doubled-up on the Beacons' scoring in the third quarter, 22-11. Examond was all over the boards in the next-to-last frame, grabbing seven boards in those ten minutes, to go along with eight on offense. Douty went a perfect three-for-three from the field, which included swishing two trifectas, for eight on offense as well. Sophomore Ashley Brown (Fairhaven, Mass.) exhibited her court vision as she dropped three dimes in the short span.
With UMass Dartmouth trailing by just one heading into the fourth quarter, UMass Boston suffocated the Corsair offense by limiting the hosts to an inefficient 26.1% shooting from the floor. While the Corsairs re-took the lead for the first time since the early going via an Examond layup seventy-one seconds into the last stanza, for a score of 45-44, each side went bucket for bucket over the next two minutes to see-saw the advantage. Douty netted a three-pointer at 7:26 and then was supported by an Examond layup on the next possession for a 52-48 margin.
In the ensuing minutes, the Beacons did not shy away from the Corsair bigs, consistently driving into the lane and achieving 16 total trips to the line in the final period. The visitors consistently attacked the paint, baiting Examond into picking up two critical fouls early in the quarter until she had eventually fouled out with three minutes to go. At the 2:33 mark, Grassi picked up perhaps her most important point on the day as she exemplified resilience after missing her first free-throw, re-toeing the line and knocking down the next attempt for a 55-54 Beacon lead.
Down by multiple possessions and less than two minutes ticking away, the Corsairs were forced to intentionally foul on each Beacon possession. Key free-throws by the visiting core sealed the victory for UMass Boston, earning their first-ever tournament championship and stamping their ticket to the NCAA Tournament as an automatic qualifier.
Inside the Number
- UMass Boston shot 40% from the field while locking up on defense, containing the Corsair clip to 31%.
- The Corsairs held the slight advantage on the glass, 46-42.
- Each bench saw a disparity in point contribution, with the Beacons totalling 17 to the Corsairs' four.
- The all-time series record between the intrastate rivals stands at 52-27 in favor of UMass Dartmouth.
The Corsairs will await their fate on Monday, Feb. 26, as they hope to hear their name called during the NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Selection Show on NCAA.com at 2:30 p.m. Fans can watch the NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Selection Show by clicking here. UMass Dartmouth earned the program's first berth into the national tournament last season, advancing to the Elite 8.