Bentley women’s basketball reaches Division 2 final – Boston Globe
ERIE, Pa. — Bentley women’s basketball coach Barbara Stevens was overwhelmed with emotion and pride as her Falcons walked off the floor with a spot in the national championship.
Bentley fought against a California powerhouse with four Division 1 transfers and used its bevy of senior weapons to keep its perfect run going to the final game of the season.
“We just find a way to win and I think it goes back to when we were preparing for Drury in the Elite Eight,” Stevens said. “The Drury coach mentioned that he didn’t know if we could grind out a game because we’ve been winning by double digits so often this season. We’ve had two very difficult games since arriving in Erie, and we definitely proved it tonight that we can play any type of game.”
Lauren Battista and Jacqui Brugliera had double-doubles and Caleigh Crowell scored 21 points to help the Falcons hold off Cal Poly Pomona, 77-62, in the NCAA Division 2
Final Four Wednesday in front of 1,258 fans at Erie Insurance Arena.
No. 1 Bentley (34-0) moves on to the national championship game Friday at 7 p.m. against No. 5 West Texas A&M, an 80-66 winner over Nova Southeastern.
“It’s hard to believe we are even here,” Crowell said. “At the beginning of the year our goal was to play for a national championship and we treated every game like it was the national championship. To go from dreaming about that to playing in the game is just unbelievable.”
Crowell was a big part of why the Falcons are one of only two teams left. The senior forward connected on 8 of 12 shots from the field, including 4 of 7 from the 3-point line.
Battista, a player of the year candidate, had 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Brugliera not only had 17 points and 12 rebounds, she played tough defense against Cal Poly Pomona standout Jada Blackwell.
“Against Drury, she had to guard 6-7 Amber Dvorak and knew her role was to play tough defense,” Stevens said. “Tonight, we told her there was a chance that she could be a big offensive player and she really stepped up for us.”
Bentley played outstanding defense in the first half to take a 29-20 lead into the break, holding Cal Poly Pomona to 28.6 percent (8 of 28) shooting from the field. The Broncos had several runs throughout the second half but couldn’t overcome the deficit.
Ashley Lovett scored on a layup with 10:33 left to make it 44-41. The Falcons responded with a 10-0 run, including 4 points from Brugliera and two clutch free throws by freshman Jen Gemma.
Bentley led, 54-41, with 8:23 left and played evenly with Cal Poly Pomona (26-7) the rest of the way to secure the win.
“Our nemesis all year has been playing a lot of zone and rebounding out of it,” Cal Poly Pomona coach Danelle Bishop said. “It killed us in the first half and we gave up too many second-chance points. I felt like that was a big key in the first half and we couldn’t recover from it.”
Blackwell led the Broncos with 22 points and six rebounds, while Ariel Marsh added 11 points and J.J. Judge scored 10.
“We knew going into the game that these are our last games in a Bentley uniform no matter what,” said Battista, a senior. “We are giving it everything we have on the floor. I don’t want to miss a rebound or miss a blockout and that’s the effort all seven seniors are giving. It’s the attitude we have when we take the floor and I think it has trickled down to our underclassmen, as well.”