Chris Kendrick (@CKendrick86)
CHICOPEE, Mass. – Elms College senior Emily Burr (East Hartford, Conn.) become the ninth player in women's basketball program history to score her 1,000th career point as the second-seeded Blazers punched their ticket to the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) Championship game with a 63-61 victory over third-seeded Becker College at Picknelly Arena Thursday night. With the win, the Blazers improve to 17-10 on the year, while Becker finishes their campaign with a 15-12 mark.
The Hawks controlled the scoreboard to open play, jumping to a 10-3 lead behind five points from sophomore Adrianna Dowdy (East Haven, Conn.) at the 4:50 mark. Five straight points from sophomore Ciara McKissick (Charlton, Mass.) expanded the Becker advantage to 15-5, and then the Hawks outscored the Blazers, 7-6, to close the frame with a 22-11 lead.
Elms settled in during the second quarter, executing an 11-0 run over the opening five minutes, paced by three-pointers from freshman Molly Moulton (North Adams, Mass.) and Burr, to even the score at 22-22. A jumper from Blazers junior Mackenzie LaRochelle (Chicopee, Mass.) gave Elms the lead at 24-23 until a trey from Becker freshman Mariah Triplett (Coral Springs, Fla.) put the Hawks up 26-24. The sides traded the lead over the final minutes with Becker taking a 30-28 advantage into halftime.
Tied at 32-32 after the opening minutes of the third quarter, the Hawks pulled ahead 39-34 behind back-to-back buckets from McKissick and a three-point play from Dowdy with 4:04 on the clock. The Blazers responded as Burr canned a deep three-pointer and then drove the lane at the 1:18 mark to tie the score at 39-39. Becker orchestrated a 5-0 run in the final minute of action to hold a 44-39 advantage.
Elms pulled within a point, 44-43, after baskets from sophomore Chaniah Pantry (New Haven, Conn.) and senior Alexandra Marques (Newington, Conn.) in the first minute of the period. A three-pointer from freshman Samantha Lynes (Berlin, Conn.) put Elms ahead, 46-45, but a drive from freshman Cassidy Harrison (Foxborough, Mass.) regained a 49-48 lead with 5:21 to go. Tied at 50-50, Dowdy converted in the paint, followed by traded three-point strikes from Lynes and Becker sophomore Katey Anderson (Beachwood, N.J.) kept the Hawks ahead 55-53. Elms grabbed the lead for good as Burr knocked down back-to-back three-pointers to stake the Blazers to a 59-55 lead with 1:42 remaining. LaRochelle netted four straight points to help Elms maintain a 61-57 advantage in the final minute, and the Blazers held the Hawks off from the free throw line to secure the 63-61 victory.
The Blazers were powered by a season-high 22 points from Burr, shooting 9-of-18 from the floor with four three-pointers, five rebounds and three assists. LaRochelle stuffed the stat sheet with 12 points, seven rebounds, a game-high five assists, a block and a steal, while Marques fell just shy of a double-double with nine points and 12 rebounds. Lynes added eight points off the bench, and Pantry grabbed nine rebounds in the win.
"I really happy that we could send our seniors off with a win in their last home game," said Elms College Head Coach Michelle Proulx. "In the first quarter, we were getting shell-shocked every time [Becker] made a shot, and stopped playing a little bit because we were nervous. Once we started playing better defensively in the second quarter, we started to make shots and push the ball more, which is one of our strengths, and that helped us turn it around in the second quarter. Becker was sinking in defensively to try and eliminate our post players, which forced our guard to step up and make some shots tonight. Heading to Regis, we know it's going to be about our defense. If we can play hard and do the little things on the defensive side of the ball, we're going to be able to stay in the game. [Regis] is a talented team offensively, they play hard defensively, they are going to know what we are going to run, just we are going to know what they are going to run, we've played each other twice already this season. It's going to come down to the defensive side, making shots on offense, showing up ready to play, and not being intimidated."
McKissick led the Hawks with her first career 20-20 performance, netting 21 points with a career-high 23 rebounds. Dowdy notched a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Triplett scored nine points off the bench.
The Hawks edged the Blazers on the glass, 57-48, during the contest. Elms connected on 36.8% (25-of-68) from the floor, including 46.7% (7-of-15) from three-point range, and 28.6% (6-of-21) from the foul line. Becker shot 28.6% (20-of-70) from the field, 16.7% (3-of-18) from three-point, and 69.2% (18-of-26) from the free throw stripe.
The Blazers advance to their fourth NECC Championship appearance, and will travel to top-seeded Regis College Saturday for a 2:00 p.m. tip at Higgins Court. The Hawks have concluded play for the 2016-17 season.