DARTMOUTH, Mass. – Tournament MVP Mya Villard (Cromwell, Conn.) notched a double-double effort of 27 points and 17 rebounds as second-seeded Eastern Connecticut overcame a 10-point third quarter deficit to win its third Little East Conference women's basketball tournament title in five years and its sixth overall with a 77-72 overtime victory over top-seeded UMass Dartmouth in the 2019 championship game Saturday afternoon at the Tripp Athletic Center.
How It Happened
- Eastern Connecticut seized a 14-10 lead via four apiece from freshman Anna Barry (Andover, Conn.) and senior Kelsey Santagata (Stamford, Conn.), but the hosts cut it to one on junior Ashley Brown's (Fairhaven, Mass.) and-one floater with 30 seconds left in the opening quarter. Senior Nakira Examond (New Bedford, Mass.) wasted no time in making her presence felt as she collected six points and four rebounds in her first 10 minutes.
- The Corsairs remained unaffected by the stoppage of play between the quarters as they went on a 10-2 run to take the lead, 20-16. Freshman Jordan Moretti (Johnston, R.I.), who knocked down a three earlier in the second stanza, encored her act at the six-and-a-half-minute mark to push the lead to five. Sophomore Lauren Empey (Middleboro, Mass.) kept the Corsair train pushing as her layup through contact found the bottom of the net with 2:19 to go. Warrior forwards Barry, Santagata and Villard kept their squad right in it, though, chipping in 22 first half total points to keep the Corsairs' halftime lead at bay (33-31).
- A pair of three pointers by Warrior freshman Julie Keckler (Trumbull, Conn.) bookended a strong strip by host senior Danyel Gonzalez (Pawtucket, R.I.), who led teammate Brown up ahead and in stride for a tie at 37 in the opening minutes of the third. After a series of exchanged buckets knotted the contest at 43, UMass Dartmouth burst for a 10-0 run accentuated by layups from Examond and Donovan mixed in with a Brown stare-down trifecta plus a Moretti corner trey. Villard answered in a big way in the waning ticks of the third, converting on the conventional three-point play to make it a 54-48 ballgame.
- Moretti dialed her fourth from distance with a straightaway three at the 8:47 mark off the setup from junior Kayla McMahon (Hanover, Mass.). On the other end, Villard came back to kill the Blue and Gold momentum once again with another hack-and-hustle to slim the margin to four (57-53).
- Brown upped her point total to 17 on a long ball with 7:12 remaining, but Eastern Connecticut assembled an 8-0 run over the next three minutes to grab a 61-60 lead. Examond, who was forced to sit with four fouls throughout most of the fourth, was inserted at the 2:55 mark but had promptly been whistled for the offensive foul on a drive to the basket to disqualify her from the affair.
- UMass Dartmouth re-took the lead on its first bucket in nearly six minutes on Moretti's scoop lay-in before Barry submitted the Warriors' answer (63-62). In the next trip down court, Brown split her trip to the line to tie it up with a minute to play, leading to a big defensive Corsair stop. With a 15 second differential between game and shot clock, Brown weaved through the open lane but her layup rattled in and out to give the Warriors the ball for the last shot. Santagata put up a free-throw line jumper in the final three ticks but left it short, forcing overtime.
- The Corsairs got on the board first in the extra period, as Moretti snatched the long rebound and tossed it up court to Brown for the score off the glass. Eastern Connecticut responded with four points of their own to take a 69-65 lead, but Donovan and Moretti hit three of four tries from the stripe to get themselves within one. After Barry made a free throw to keep the visitors afloat (70-68), the Blue and Gold forced a crucial shot clock violation to take OT down to the 1:35 mark. Following a timeout, Moretti eluded a pair of defenders with a euro-step to forge a deadlock at 70. The Warriors later took a 74-72 advantage with 26 seconds left and then got the ball back with 11 ticks after a missed jumper. Barry delivered the dagger off of the inbounds pass plus the foul to stretch the margin to five.
Inside The Numbers
- Barry also posted a double-double effort of 18 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks for Eastern Connecticut.
- The Warriors scored 42 points in the paint and held a 55-49 rebounding advantage overall.
- Moretti's 19 points marked the second highest single-game scoring effort of her career.
- Brown paced the Corsairs with 20 points, eight boards and four assists.
- Entering today, UMass Dartmouth has taken 33 of its last 36 games against Little East Conference opponents.
- The Corsairs' third quarter surge of 21 points came on 50% shooting (9-18).
- The game was the fourth in conference tournament history to go to an overtime period, and ironically, Eastern Connecticut has been involved in all four (1990, 2008, 2015).
- Eastern Connecticut earns the LEC's automatic berth into the NCAA Division III championship field, which will be announced on Monday afternoon. UMass Dartmouth will await word of a possible at-large berth in the NCAA tournament field.
(Recap By Kyle Diangkinay '19, Athletic Communications Graduate Assistant)
(Photo Credit: Lyrik Gelmete '21)