STARTING LINEUP: 2014 QUARTER-FINAL FLASHBACK
DOUBLE OT DRAMA IN LORETTO
In the previous 32-year history of the Northeast Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament there have been many standout games, spectacular shots, and memorable moments…and then there was the 2014 quarter-final contest between the Saint Francis Red Flash and the Sacred Heart Pioneers. It’s a game that has to be placed in a separate category, because the NEC Tournament hadn’t seen anything like it before and hasn’t seen anything like it since.
On Sunday, March 9, 2014, Saint Francis U and Sacred Heart stepped into the DeGol Arena in Loretto, PA for a late-afternoon playoff match-up pitting the sixth seeded Pioneers up against the third seeded Red Flash. It would be a rematch of the previous year’s semi-final, won by SFU 83-67, and a matchup between two programs who had combined to win nine out of the previous 12 tournament championships.
The Pioneers were in their first year under Jessica Mannetti. Sacred Heart had lost their senior point guard Ericka Norman earlier in the season due to injury, and was stumbling to the finish line. After starting 7-2 in NEC play, the Pioneers lost seven out of their last nine games going into the conference tournament. While managing to keep their conference tournament qualification streak alive, making it to 15 straight conference tournaments at that point, the sixth seed was the lowest seed the Pioneer program had ever earned.
On the other side, the Red Flash entered 2014 with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove after a 39-point loss to Quinnipiac in the previous year’s championship game. The Red Flash routed Wagner in their regular season finale, 101-75, to clinch a first-round home playoff game at DeGol Arena, a facility in which they had won 24 consecutive home playoff games, a streak dating back to the early 90’s. SFU senior Alli Williams punctuated a 2014 first team all-conference season with a 47-point performance against the Seahawks.
From the onset, the game moved at a blistering pace. SFU would hold a 53-47 lead at intermission. The Pioneers fought back with a 12-4 run right out of the break to force a tie, and managed to take back control of the scoreboard on a Gabby Washington three nearly 30 seconds later.
With 38 seconds remaining in regulation the Pioneers were protecting a seven-point edge, 100-93, following a pair of made free throws by Washington. It was the first time Sacred Heart had hit the century mark in a single game since 1985. Things seemed grim for the Red Flash, until SFU junior Alexa Hayward quickly converted a jumper to move the Flash to within five. Then, following a timeout, Corissa Archer forced a steal. She would give It up to Williams, who was fouled. Williams made good on both of her free throws, and suddenly, it was a one possession game.
With 12 seconds to spare in regulation, Hayward converted a layup to bring the Flash to within a single point. On the other end, SHU point guard Katie Shepard made one out of two from the charity stripe. With time running out, Hayward raced down the court in desperation, penetrated towards the basket, and fed it to Alli Williams, who converted the layup with just one second remaining to tie the game and send it into a bonus session.
In overtime, once again, SFU saw their season flash before their eyes in the final seconds. Trailing by three, 115-112, and under 20 seconds to go, Alexa Hayward drove hard to the basket, drawing a foul while converting the shot, to earn an “and one” opportunity. After Hayward completed the old fashioned three-point play to tie the game, Hannah Kimmel missed a shot at the buzzer for SHU. With the outcome still unsettled, the teams would have to play on.
“I know [Gabby Washington] didn’t want to foul me. Just driving in I felt confident,” said Hayward of her clutch three-point play. “I went into her a little bit and made sure I could get the shot up. I just wanted to make the shot and hit a free throw to take us home.”
Eventually, the duo of Williams and Hayward would prove to be too much for Sacred Heart. In the second overtime, Williams and Hayward combined to score 13 out of the 17 Saint Francis points, leading SFU to a thrilling 132-124 victory, and a chance to live and play another day, against Mount St. Mary’s in the NEC Tournament semi-finals.
Now looking back, five years later, there are still several eye-popping numbers associated with this game that stand out. First, the 256 combined points set a new mark as the second highest scoring NCAA women’s basketball game in history (Behind Kentucky over Baylor in four overtimes, 133-130, from earlier that season). Also, prior to this game, no NEC team had ever reached 100 points in an NEC Tournament game. On this day, not only did both teams reach the century mark, but they both did it by the end of the first 40 minutes! The game also featured not one, not two, but three 40-point scorers – Alli Williams and Gabby Washington each setting a new NEC Tournament single game scoring record with 47 points apiece, and Alexa Hayward who finished with 43 and tied a NEC tournament record with 16 made field goals. For Williams it was a second straight 47 point showing, equaling her career high.
“I was thinking at a point, wow this could be my last college game,” said Williams. “I am so appreciative of my teammates for stepping up down the stretch.”
“It was all adrenaline,” said Washington. “Like when something big happened, stuff came out of us that I didn’t know was possible. We were just starting to talk and it kind of helped us and pushed us. It just didn’t go our way.”
The see-saw affair saw a total of 12 ties and 22 lead changes. Yes, you read that right…22 lead changes! Finally, in a feat that would seem nearly impossible in a game like this, the Red Flash committed a grand total of just NINE TURNOVERS on the afternoon!
“It’s a shame somebody had to lose today because I couldn’t have asked for a better effort and a better game, actually, to be a part of,” said Coach Mannetti in her post-game press conference. “It was unbelievable the energy and excitement the playoff atmosphere created. To watch our team, who has really hit some bumps over the last couple games down the stretch of the regular season, show up with a lot of energy and excitement and optimism, they played their hearts out tonight.”
The Saint Francis Red Flash would go on to defeat Mount St. Mary’s in a tightly contested semi-final, 68-63, before running out of steam in the NEC Championship Game against rival Robert Morris, 78-64. Sacred Heart would bounce back to win 11 conference games in 2015, and then go 16-2, win the regular season title, and host the NEC Championship Game in 2016. The 132-124 double overtime thriller remains an NEC Tournament ‘Instant Classic’ and one of the most iconic games ever played in the NEC Women’s Basketball Tournament.
#NECWBB NEWS AND NOTES
*2019 NEC TOURNAMENT PREVIEW:2019 will mark the 33rd annual Northeast Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament. After a year experimenting with a ‘pod system’ format in which the top two seeds each hosted two quarter-final games and one semi-final game, the tournament returns to the ‘higher seed hosting’ format, previously used from 2011-2017. After the quarter-final round, teams will be reseeded so the highest remaining seed plays the lowest remaining seed in the semi-finals. The quarter-finals will tip off on Monday, March 11th on NEC Front Row, with the semi-finals airing on both ESPN3 and NEC Front Row on Thursday, March 14th at 7pm. For the 12th straight season, the NEC Championship Game will air on ESPNU on St. Patrick’s Day, Sunday, March 17th at 2pm.
Home court advantage has certainly mattered in the early rounds, as under the previous ‘higher seed hosts’ format from 2011-17, home teams were 24-4 in the quarter-finals, only 7-7 in the semi-finals, and 5-2 in the championship game. The only team in history to ever win three straight road games on their way to the tournament title was the 2015 St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers. As the #5 seed, they won at Sacred Heart, Central Connecticut, and Robert Morris en-route to their program’s first ever championship. The top four seeds here in 2019 (Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, St. Francis Brooklyn, and Saint Francis U) are a combined 31-5 at home this year against conference competition.
Two new teams are set to enter the tournament field from the eight who qualified a year ago, Wagner and Mount St. Mary’s. The Mountaineers last qualified in 2017, while the Seahawks are making their first tournament appearance in five years. The Sacred Heart Pioneers are making their 20th consecutive NEC Tournament appearance in 2019, extending their own league record. The Bryant Bulldogs are also appearing for a seventh straight season. They have made the conference tournament every year since they were first eligible back in 2013.
Wagner, making just their third playoff appearance in the last 15 years will look to pick up their first playoff win since the 2002 quarter-finals. For Fairleigh Dickinson, seeded eighth for a third straight year, the tournament victory drought has been even longer. The Knights haven’t won a playoff game since their 1992 Championship Game victory over Mount St. Mary’s, a streak of 20 straight playoff losses over the last 26 years.
The Saint Francis Red Flash are the reigning tournament champions, and have won a league record 12 tournament titles overall. There have been six repeat winners in history, and this season the Red Flash will look to become the first repeat champion since the Robert Morris Colonials in 2016 and 2017. Speaking of the Colonials, they will be the tournament’s top seed for a fourth time in history and have home court advantage throughout the tournament. The #1 seeded team has won it all 19 times in the previous 32 seasons. Robert Morris has advanced to the championship game in each of their last five straight seasons. If they can navigate their way back to the final again in 2019, they’d be the first team to play in six straight title tilts since SFU went to seven straight from 1994-2000.
Before the quarter-finals tip off on Monday night, check out our quarter-final previews for all four first round matchups, located below in the “A Look Ahead” section.
*PLAYER OF THE YEAR…A CLOSER LOOK: Five weeks ago, here on the NEC WBB Fast Break, we did a mid-season awards column, highlighting some of the top candidates for each of the NEC’s top honors at the half-way point. Now the regular season has been completed, the coach’s ballots are due in, and the winners are set to be announced by the Northeast Conference on Monday morning, prior to the tip-off of the women’s basketball quarter-finals on Monday night.
One of the most interesting decisions will be in choosing the 2019 Player of the Year. At mid-season we highlighted five potential candidates: Jess Kovatch, Katherine Haines, Jade Johnson, Sydney Holloway, and Juliette Lawless. Over the final five weeks, Lawless fell off the pace due to a mid-season injury that caused her to miss a game and be very limited in a few others. For Holloway, she averaged a double-double, making her a virtual lock for a first-team all-conference bid, but a Player of the Year honor seems a little out of reach due to a mini-mid-season slump where she averaged only 13.5 points and 8 rebounds over an 11-game stretch. Then, you have the rise of Amy O’Neill, who jumped into the mix by leading the nation in assists and producing a pair of triple-doubles during the month of February.
So let’s take a closer look at the top four main POY candidates and their numbers…
JESSICA KOVATCH: The Saint Francis senior is the incumbent, the reigning Player of the Year, and obviously the player with the biggest profile and reputation in the league. Kovatch still leads the league in scoring and made three pointers. She is amongst the nation’s best (second in the country) in made threes and made threes per game. However, her numbers down the stretch have been un-Kovatch like. Over the last six games, the Phillipsburg, NJ native is only averaging 16.2 points on 34.3% shooting and 29.0% from three. While those are still solid numbers, Kovatch could be considered a victim of setting the bar too high for herself during her Player of the Year season last year. Her numbers are more comparable to her 2017 season where she finished behind Anna Niki Stamolamprou in the Player of the Year race. While Kovatch’s scoring average and shooting percentage have dropped down the stretch, and she hasn’t had as many explosive scoring games this season compared to previous years, she is actually having her most efficient three-point shooting season overall. Here are how her numbers break down, at the time of the Player of the Year voting, in each of the last three years…
Kovatch by season (Numbers going into the NEC Tournament)
2017: 21.7ppg…42.4%FG…35.6%3pt…105 made 3’s
2018: 24.0ppg…42.8%FG…37.2%3pt…118 made 3
2019: 21.2ppg…42.1%FG…36.8%3pt…112 made 3’s
KATHERINE HAINES: Haines’ first half highlights include the first triple double in league history involving blocks and achieving her 1,000th career point early in the conference season. In the season’s second half, while Kovatch’s numbers have slipped, Haines has been on a tear. Over the last six games, Haines is averaging 19.7 points and 9.5 rebounds, on 52.9% shooting and 47.6% from behind the arc. If you go back even further to January 28th against Robert Morris, really the only conference game Haines struggled in (7 points, 4 rebounds, on 2-10 shooting), Haines is averaging over 18 points and 9 rebounds on over 50% shooting in her last 10 games. Haines’ 13 double-doubles are third most in the league behind Holloway and LIU’s Brandy Thomas. To compere, Haines’ numbers are very similar to the numbers of Sacred Heart’s last Player of the Year, Hannah Kimmel, in 2016.
(Numbers going into the NEC Tournament)
Haines 2019: 16.8ppg…9.2reb…48.7%FG…39.1%3pt
Kimmel 2016: 17.2ppg…7.7reb…39.1%FG…36.7%3pt
JADE JOHNSON & AMY O’NEILL: Jade Johnson has had an incredible junior season offensively, scoring 19.9 points per game, while connecting on 97 made threes. All of those numbers are spectacular, but also are all second to Kovatch. Johnson’s teammate, Terrier senior Amy O’Neill has quietly developed a Player of the Year resume by significantly contributing in all areas. In the past, point guards usually don’t fare well in Player of the Year voting, perhaps because, as the primary facilitator, they don’t put up the crazy scoring numbers or rack up a ton of rebounds. The most recent ‘point guards’ to win Player of the Year were RMU’s Anna Niki Stamolamprou and Angela Pace, and in both cases, point guard wasn’t their natural position, they were moved there out of team necessity due to injuries and graduations. Excluding her 28-point scoring game last week against Bryant, O’Neill hasn’t put up big points, mostly because she’s been setting up her teammates, like Johnson, at such a high level. In addition, when you factor in that she leads the entire nation in assists, she leads her team in rebounding (as a point guard), and is one of the top defenders in the NEC (all while virtually never coming off of the floor – she has the most minutes played in the league), O’Neill’s complete resume definitely has her up there as an ‘NEC Elite’ player.
O’Neill’s Last 6 games: 11.8ppg…7.3reb…9.8asst
The official Player of the Year announcement, as well as the announcements of all individual award and all-conference winners, will take place at 10:00am on Monday, March 11th on the NEC Sports official Twitter page @NECSports.
A LOOK AHEAD: 2019 NEC WBB QUARTER-FINALS
Monday, March 11, 2019
#7) Wagner at #2) Sacred Heart, 6pm
#8) Fairleigh Dickinson at #1) Robert Morris, 7pm
#6) Mount St. Mary’s at #3) St. Francis Brooklyn, 7pm
#5) Bryant at #4) Saint Francis U, 7pm
#8) FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON (8-21, 5-13) at #1) ROBERT MORRIS (19-10, 16-2)
2018-19 Meetings: RMU 71-49 (1/7), RMU 63-43 (2/2)
All-Time Series: RMU leads 42-26 (Streak: RMU W8)
The Colonials and Knights are set to square off in the NEC Tournament quarter-finals for the fourth time in the last five years. The Colonials swept the regular season series in 2019 with a pair of defensive gems. In January, RMU held the Knights to just two first quarter points, only 49 points overall on the evening, and 32% shooting in a 71-49 victory in western Pennsylvania. In February, the Knights were outscored 23-9 in the first quarter, and held to 43 points on 35% shooting, in RMU’s 63-43 win in the Garden State. Robert Morris has won their last eight straight meetings with the Knights. The Knights haven’t defeated the Colonials since sweeping RMU during the 2015-16 season. However, Robert Morris would manage to rebound in the 2016 NEC Tournament, eliminating FDU 68-59. They would again spoil Fairleigh Dickinson’s season in 2017, knocking the Knights out of the tournament, 68-35.
Robert Morris began the year with an impressive 11-game win streak to start conference play. Their 16-2 conference record ties the 2008 team and last year’s team for the second best conference record in program history. The 2010 Colonials finished one game better at 17-1. The Knights went winless in February (0-7) for the first time since 2005. However, they managed to turn it around and win their final two regular season games to clinch the eighth and final playoff spot.
*Preseason favorite Robert Morris returns to the post-season for the sixth straight season, and for the 14th time in the last 15 years.
*The Colonials are the #1 seed for the fourth time in NEC Tournament history (2010, 2014, 2017, 2019)
*The tournament’s #1 seed has won 19 out of the previous 32 NEC Tournament championships. In the 24 years since the discontinuation of the 6-team bracket, the #1 seed has won 17 times and has only missed the championship game on five occasions.
*RMU has appeared in five straight NEC Championship Games, the most since Saint Francis U appeared in seven straight title tilts from 1994-2000.
*Robert Morris has won seven NEC Championships, second most in history behind Saint Francis U (12)
*The Colonials are 13-5 all-time in the quarter-final round. They have won eight straight quarter-final playoff contests. The last time RMU failed to record a win in the quarter-final round was a 72-60 loss to Saint Francis in 2009.
*RMU has won six consecutive home playoff games and 17 out of their last 18. The Colonials are 21-2 all-time at home in the NEC Tournament. Their last NEC Tournament loss on their home floor was a 2015 NEC Championship Game setback to St. Francis Brooklyn, 77-62.
*This is Charlie Buscaglia’s 14th NEC Tournament as an assistant or head coach at Robert Morris. While working for 13 seasons as an assistant under his dad, Sal Buscaglia set a NEC record with 20 tournament wins as a head coach. Since taking over in 2017, Charlie has led the Colonials to five tournament wins in two years, including a title in 2017 and a championship game appearance last year.
*The Colonials are appearing in their 24th NEC Tournament, with a 33-17 overall tournament record.
*Fairleigh Dickinson clinched a playoff spot for the fifth straight season after a 68-49 victory over LIU Brooklyn in the regular season finale on Thursday night. FDU has qualified for the NEC Tournament 26 times overall and nine times in the last 12 seasons under head coach Peter Cinella
*The current run of five straight tournament appearances is the second longest streak in program history. From 1992-1998 FDU appeared in seven straight conference tournaments.
*The Knights were seeded as high as #5 in 2004 and 2008, but have not been seeded in the top four since they were the #1 seed in 1993, falling on their home floor to #4 seed Marist. The Knights are the #8 seed in 2019 for the third straight season. Last year they fell to the #1 Saint Francis Red Flash 89-70 in Loretto.
*Fairleigh Dickinson was knocked out of the playoffs by Robert Morris in the quarter-final round for three straight seasons from 2015-17.
*FDU is on a 20 game NEC Tournament losing streak. They have not tasted victory in a NEC Tournament game since their 78-55 victory over Mount St. Mary’s in the 1992 NEC Championship Game. The Knights are 10-24 all-time in the NEC Tournament.
*Only once in NEC Tournament history has a #8 seed defeated the #1 seed. In 2007, #8 seeded St. Francis Brooklyn pulled off the historic upset against the #1 seeded LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds. The Terriers were led by a 20-point effort from Sarah Bratton.
#7) WAGNER (10-19, 8-10) at #2) SACRED HEART (18-11, 14-4)
2018-19 Meetings: SHU 80-68 (1/12), SHU 72-64 (1/21)
All-Time Series: SHU leads 28-9 (Streak: SHU W11)
The Sacred Heart Pioneers have appeared in 20 straight NEC Tournaments. Back in March 2000, in their very first NEC Tournament game in program history, the #3 seeded Pioneers were upset in the quarter-final round by the #6 seeded Wagner Seahawks, 59-56. Monday night will be their first playoff meeting since. Presently, the Pioneers have dominated the series. They’ve won 11 straight games against the Seahawks, sweeping them five straight years. The last time Wagner defeated Sacred Heart was back in January of 2014, during Jessica Mannetti’s rookie season as head coach. This year the teams met twice within a nine day span in mid-January. During the first meeting in Staten Island, Kat Haines recorded a double-double with 22 points and 13 rebounds, while Candice Leatherwood added 20 points. In the rematch, Leatherwood again reached 20, while Haines scored her 1,000th career point, as part of a 19 point effort.
Sacred Heart boasts one of the most experienced rosters in the league with two seniors and three grad students. The Pioneers began the season 6-0 in NEC play before dropping three in a row. They burst out of that skid with a 76-41 victory over Mount St. Mary’s on February 9th. Since that game, SHU has won eight out of their last nine games and their last five in a row entering the tournament. The effort has been on both sides of the ball. During this nine game stretch, the Pioneers are averaging 68.2 points, 44% shooting, and 8.9 threes per game. All this, while holding opponents to just 52.8 points per game, including holding three teams to under 50 points. On the other side, the Wagner Seahawks have been one of the biggest surprise stories in the NEC this year. After finishing at the bottom of the league standings four straight years, and being forecasted to finish at the bottom again this year, the Seahawks defied the odds, making the NEC Tournament for the first time since 2014 and for only the third time since 2004. While Wagner got off to a 7-5 start in league play, they have dropped five out of their last six to finish up the regular season, having to settle for the seventh seed.
*Sacred Heart is back in the post-season for a 20th consecutive year, the longest active streak in Northeast Conference women’s basketball. SHU has earned a top three seed in 15 out of their 20 tournament trips.
*The Pioneers have advanced into the semi-final round in 12 out of their previous 19 tournament appearances. SHU has been to the semi-finals three straight years and five out of the last seven.
*SHU has won three Northeast Conference Championships (2006, 2009, and 2012). In 2009, the Pioneers became the 3rd team in NEC history to record a perfect 18-0 regular season on their road to the tournament title.
*The Pioneers are the #2 seed for the fifth time in program history (2004, 2005, 2013, 2017, and 2019). Seven times the #2 seed has gone on to win the NEC Championship, with Robert Morris in 2008 serving as the last champion to start their journey at #2.
*Sacred Heart has appeared in four NEC Championship Games, with their last coming back in 2016, a 56-51 loss at home to Robert Morris.
*With another 18 win season recorded in 2019, the Pioneers have reached the 18 win plateau in 12 out of the last 16 seasons. With two more victories in this year’s tournament, the Pioneers would reach 20 wins for the 8th time since they joined Division I.
*The Pioneers are 12-7 all time in the quarter-final round. SHU is also 17-8 all-time in NEC Tournament games played at the Pitt Center.
*Wagner is back in the NEC Tournament for the 21st time in history, for the first time since 2014, and for just the third time since 2004. The Seahawks are the #7 seed for the third time in program history (1994, 2014, and 2019).
*The Seahawks are 8-11 all-time in the quarter-final round and 14-19 overall in the NEC Tournament. Wagner has dropped their last five straight tournament games. Their last tournament win came back in the 2002 NEC Tournament quarter-finals when they beat Monmouth 73-59.
*Only once has a #7 seed upset a #2 seed. That came back in 2003, when UMBC, in their final year in the league, upset #2 Quinnipiac in the quarter-final. In fact, the Retrievers would also upset #3 Monmouth in the semi-finals, before falling to SFU in the 2003 Championship Game. The #7 seeded 2003 UMBC Retrievers are the lowest seeded team to ever play in the NEC Championship Game.
*Led by tournament MVP Maureen Coughlin, the Seahawks won their lone championship in 1989 with a 66-60 victory over Robert Morris. Wagner also appeared in the championship game in 1991 and 2000, both times making it to the final as a #6 seed.
#6) MOUNT ST. MARY’S (14-15, 8-10) at #3) ST. FRANCIS BROOKLYN (18-12, 12-6)
2018-19 Meetings: MSM 78-75 (1/28), SFBK 69-65 (3/4)
All-Time Series: MSM leads 52-8 (Streak: SFBK W1)
The Mount and St. Francis Brooklyn had perhaps the two most impressive non-conference seasons in the league this year. The Terriers went 6-6, scoring over 100 points in three out of their first five games. The six non-conference wins was their most since they won nine in non-conference play in 2014. For Mount, at 6-5, they finished with a winning non-conference season for the first time since 2000. In conference play, Mount started slow out of the gate at 1-4, but managed to win three straight games at the end of January, including a thrilling 78-75 win at home over St. Francis Brooklyn. After a three-game skid to start February, the Mount won four out of their next five to clinch a playoff spot after missing the tournament by one game last year. The Mount picked up their biggest win on February 16th, handing Robert Morris their first conference loss of the year, 61-55, in a game that Juliette Lawless was limited due to injury. The Terriers are enjoying a banner campaign in their first year under Linda Cimino. St. Francis Brooklyn’s 12 conference wins are the most ever for a single season in program history, and their 18 overall wins is their most since they won 19 games in 2013-14. St. Francis Brooklyn defeated Mount in their second meeting, just last weekend, in Brooklyn Heights. Freshman Ebony Horton led the way with 18 points and 8 rebounds, while senior Amy O’Neill flirted with a triple-double, recording 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 9 assists.
Both head coaches, SFBK’s Linda Cimino and Mount’s Maria Marchesano will be coaching in their first NEC Tournament game. The Terriers are the three seed for a second straight year, but will be hosting their first ever playoff game at the Pope PE Center, after having to play out in Pennsylvania at a ‘neutral site’ last year. St. Francis Brooklyn will be trying to reach the semi-finals for the first time since they won in all in 2015, while the Mount will look to advance into the league’s ‘final four’ for the first time since 2014.
ST. FRANCIS BROOKLYN
*St. Francis Brooklyn is the #3 seed for a second straight season, equaling the highest seeding in program history.
*Three times the #3 seed has won the NEC Tournament: FDU in 1990, Long Island in 2001, and Robert Morris in 2016. The #3 seed has also seen its share of upsets. 10 times the #6 seed has upset the #3 seed, including in each of the last two seasons.
*The Terriers are making their 14th NEC Tournament appearance and their third straight.
*Only three times have the Terriers advanced to the semi-final round: 1987, 2007, and 2015. In 2007 the Terriers pulled off a historic upset as the #8 seed, knocking off the top seeded LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds, before falling to Robert Morris in the semis. In 2015, the Terriers would again make history, becoming the first and only school to win three straight road games on the way to their first and only NEC Championship.
*St. Francis Brooklyn is one victory shy of matching their 2014 team record of 19 wins in a single season
*Linda Cimino led the Terriers to the #3 seed in her first season as head coach. The last head coach to win a NEC Championship in their first season was Charlie Buscaglia in 2017 with Robert Morris
MOUNT ST. MARY’S
*The Mount returns to the post-season in 2019 after missing the tournament by a single game last year, ending a run of six straight seasons in the conference tournament.
*Mount has now qualified for the NEC Tournament a record 27 times and 27 out of the last 30 years.
*The Mountaineers have appeared in seven NEC Championship Games, but none since 2001. The Mount is tied with Sacred Heart at three NEC Tournament championships (1993, 1994, 1995), for the third most in league history.
*After falling in the 2001 final, it would be 13 years until the Mount would win another playoff game. They would advance to the semi-finals in back to back seasons in 2013 and 2014.
*The Mount holds the distinction of earning the NEC’s first two automatic NCAA tournament bids after winning the conference tournament in 1994 and 1995.
*Mount St. Mary’s is 3-0 all-time in the NEC Tournament against St. Francis Brooklyn, winning playoff matchups in 1994, 1995, and 1998. The Mount is 19-23 overall in the NEC Tournament, with a 13-13 record in the quarter-finals.
#5) BRYANT (11-18, 9-9) at #4) SAINT FRANCIS U (14-16, 11-7)
2018-19 Meetings: BRY 66-63 (1/21), SFU 78-66 (2/11)
All-Time Series: SFU leads 10-9 (Streak: SFU W1)
The Bryant Bulldogs and the reigning champion, Saint Francis Red Flash, will square off for the first time ever in the post-season. The Bulldogs will become the 14th different postseason opponent for the Red Flash, who are the league’s most accomplished tournament team with 47 tournament wins and 12 tournament championships. After a 3-0 start in league play, SFU dropped their next three, including a 66-63 setback in Smithfield. Jessica Kovatch was held to 14 points, ending her streak of nine straight games over 20. The Red Flash would then win their next six in a row before dropping four out of their final six games. The Bulldogs endured a mid-season five game slide, but finished up playing their best basketball of the year, winning five out of their final six games to earn the #5 seed. Bryant secured the 5th seed with a 76-73 victory over Wagner in the season finale. With the game tied at 73, and just seconds remaining, senior Naomi Ashley stripped the ball from the Seahawks and converted an ‘and one’ three-point play opportunity to seal the game.
Monday night’s game will also be the likely final home game in the remarkable career of ‘the one and only’ Jessica Kovatch. Kovatch, the NEC’s all-time leading scorer, will take the court at DeGol Arena with 2,795 career points and 461 career three pointers. Last year, Kovatch scored a single tournament record of 103 combined points over three games at DeGol Arena to lead the Red Flash to the NEC title.
SAINT FRANCIS U
*The Red Flash will be making their 24th NEC Tournament appearance and their 10th in the last 11 years. SFU has won the most tournament games (47) and the most tournament titles (12) in NEC history.
*Saint Francis U has won 43 out of their last 49 playoff games and has appeared in 17 out of the last 25 NEC Championship Games.
*The last team to repeat as NEC Champions were the Robert Morris Colonials in 2016 and 2017. SFU has always managed to win at least two consecutive championships (1996-2000, 2002-05, and 2010-11)
*At DeGol Arena, Saint Francis has won 29 out of their last 30 home playoff games. Their lone home playoff defeat since the early 1990’s was a 65-57 defeat to Central Connecticut State in 2017.
*The lone school to win the NEC Tournament as a #4 seed was the Robert Morris Colonials in 1991 when they defeated the #6 seeded Wagner Seahawks in the final.
*This year marks just the 4th time the Red Flash have captured the fourth seed. SFU is 18-5 all-time in the quarter-final round.
*Last year Jess Kovatch became the 7th player to win Player of the Year and Tournament MVP in the same season. Three players have won Tournament MVP in consecutive campaigns: Jess Zinobile 1999-00, Chinata Nesbit 2007-08, and Anna Niki Stamolamprou 2016-17.
*The Bryant Bulldogs have qualified for the NEC Tournament seven straight seasons, every year since first becoming eligible in 2013.
*Bryant is 5-6 all-time in the NEC Tournament and 5-2 in the quarter-final round. They had appeared in the semi-finals five straight seasons before falling in the quarter-finals last year to Sacred Heart.
*The Bulldogs are the tournament’s #5 seed for a second straight season. Only once has the #5 seed won a NEC championship, the 2015 St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers. The 2015 Terriers are the lowest seeded team to ever win the tournament title.
*The Bulldogs are the lone team in this year’s field to never win a NEC Championship. They appeared in their lone NEC Championship game in 2017, falling to Robert Morris in the final, 65-52.
*For the games of March 7, 2019
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Naomi Ashley, BRY…Nina Augustin, RMU…Ashley Berube, CCSU…Jess Kovatch, SFU…Katherine Haines, SHU…Ebony Horton, SFBK…Ally Lassen, SFBK…Juliette Lawless, MSM…Janelle Mullen, WC…Amy O’Neill, SFBK…Isabella Posset, RMU…Lucia Serrano-Ranz, FDU…Taylah Simmons, WC…Natalie Zamora, FDU
THREE: Brandy Thomas, FR (LIU): While her team just missed out on the 2019 postseason, you couldn’t have asked for a better individual finish for Brandy Thomas in her rookie season. Thomas, a winner of three out of the last four NEC Rookie of the Week awards, recorded four straight double-doubles to finish up the 2019 campaign. On a night when the Blackbirds’ leading scorer Jeydah Johnson just did not have the shooting touch, Thomas did all she could to keep LIU in the game, producing a monster 25 point and 14 rebound performance in the regular season finale against Fairleigh Dickinson. Thomas finishes up the season averaging a double-double with 13.9 points and 10.4 rebounds, and is amongst the nation’s leaders with 15 double-doubles on the year
TWO: Erin Storck, GR (SHU): On a night when the SHU offense endured a near 17 minute drought without a field goal, Storck led a key mid-fourth quarter stretch by scoring five straight points to help pull SHU within one of Mount St. Mary’s. Later, with 2:44 left and the game tied at 43, Storck made the assist to Jayla Davis for what would go on to be the game winning basket. Finally, in the closing moments, Storck collected two consecutive offensive rebounds off missed free throws and sank three free throws of her own to preserve the win. Storck scored eight of her game high 16 points in the fourth quarter. The Sacred Heart grad student has scored in double figures five straight games to finish up the regular season, averaging 13.2 points during that stretch. Erin Storck will enter the NEC Tournament with 910 career points, 90 shy of 1,000.
ONE: Sydney Holloway, JR (BRY): Holloway’s big plays in the fourth quarter helped to lead a Bulldog comeback over Wagner on Thursday night to help Bryant clinch the #5 seed. Training by five with nearly two minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Holloway rebounded a Khaleah Edwards three point try and scored a layup on the other end to pull Bryant within three. After Taylah Simmons scored to get Wagner back up by five, Holloway found Haley Connors for an assist on the three point ball to get Bryant within two. Holloway finished the night leading Bryant with 20 points and 9 rebounds, with 6 of those points and 7 of those rebounds coming during the fourth quarter. Over her last five games, Holloway is averaging 22.4 points and 8.8 rebounds. She finished the regular season leading the NEC in rebounding for a second straight year, and is top 15 in the nation with 17 double-doubles.
STAT OF THE WEEK
*Prior to the 256 points scored in the 2014 NEC Tournament quarter-final between Saint Francis U and Sacred Heart, the NEC record for most combined points scored in a NEC Tournament game was 174 in Robert Morris’ 92-82 win over Saint Francis in the 2012 quarter-finals. The 2014 game smashed that record by a whopping 82 points. Three SFU players, Alexa Hayward, Rebecca Keegan, and Alli Williams, can lay claim that they have played in both of the top two scoring games in NEC Tournament history.
Our NEC WBB post-season coverage continues on Wednesday, March 13th with a special semi-final playoff edition of the NEC WBB Fast Break column. We’ll recap the quarter-final round and preview both semi-final showdowns. Be sure stay with us all post-season long on the road to the 2019 NEC Women’s Basketball Championship here on the NEC Overtime! Blog.