DARTMOUTH, Mass. -- Senior All-America Nakira Examond (New Bedford, Mass.) recorded her 14th double-double performance of the season with 20 points and 15 rebounds, as top-seeded UMass Dartmouth advanced to the title game of the 2019 Little East Conference Women’s Basketball Championships with a 71-65 victory over fifth-seeded Rhode Island College in semifinal round action Friday afternoon at the Tripp Athletic Center.
The Corsairs, who improve to 22-4 overall on the season, will take on second-seeded Eastern Connecticut in Saturday’s afternoon’s championship contest that tips-off at 3:30 pm at the Tripp Athletic Center, as the Warriors (18-8) advanced to the title game with a 93-58 victory over third-seeded Southern Maine in Friday’s other semifinal.
UMass Dartmouth jumped out to an early 19-9 advantage before settling for a six-point lead (19-13) after the opening quarter of action, but the visiting Anchorwomen (18-9) used an 18-2 run in a six minute stretch to take a 27-21 edge on sophomore Sophia Guerrier’s (Waltham, Mass.) conventional three-point play with 6:05 to play in the half. UMass Dartmouth responded by scoring 12 of the final 16 points before intermission en route to a 33-31 lead at the break, and the hosts netted the first four points of the second half to extend that margin to six 49 seconds into the third stanza.
Rhode Island College climbed back to within one (41-40) after a free throw from freshman Taylor Thompson (Greenville, S.C.), but a three-pointer by sophomore Meagan Donovan (Abington, Mass.) helped sparked a 17-1 run over a seven minute stretch and give UMass Dartmouth its biggest lead of the day at 58-41 with 7:06 remaining. The Anchorwomen made one last push in the game’s closing three plus minutes of play, as three-pointers by juniors Jordyn Gauvin (Fall River, Mass.) and Ornela Livramento (Pawtucket, R.I.) enabled the visitors to creep back to within five in the final 35 seconds, but six combined free throws by Examond, senior Jess Korzec (West Brookfield, Mass.) and junior Ashley Brown (New Bedford, Mass.) sealed the hosts’ triumph and propelled the Corsairs to their second straight appearance in the league title game.
Brown added 15 points and seven rebounds in the win for UMass Dartmouth, which received 12 points and a trio of boards from fellow junior Kayla McMahon (Hanover, Mass.). Korzec chipped in with 11 points and three steals for the Corsairs, who received six points from freshman Shaelyn Carreiro (Fall River, Mass.) along with six caroms, four assists and a pair of steals from senior Danyel Gonzalez (Pawtucket, R.I.). The hosts overcame a 33 percent overall shooting effort (22-66) from the field by connecting on 21 of 23 attempts at the foul line, as UMass Dartmouth converted 25 turnovers into 17 points to sweep the three-game season set from the Anchorwomen.
Guerrier finished with 15 points and seven rebounds in the setback for Rhode Island College, which received a double-double effort of 13 points, 10 boards and four blocks from Livramento. Sophomore Brooke Young also scored 13 points for the visitors, who seven points and 11 caroms from Thompson. The Anchorwomen shot 35 percent from the floor (23-66) and canned seven from behind the arc while holding a 50-42 rebounding advantage for the contest.
Eastern Connecticut blistered the nets at a 62 percent clip (37-60) in the second semifinal, as the Warriors raced out to a 24-8 first quarter advantage and led by as many as 37 points in the closing minutes of action to advance to the championship round for the 16th time. Senior Kelsey Santagata (Stamford, Conn.) paced five players in double figures with 20 points and six rebounds for Eastern Connecticut, which received 17 points and five boards from freshman Jenna Serrantino (Cromwell, Conn.). Freshman Anna Barry (Andover, Conn.) collected 11 points and seven caroms for the Warriors, who received 11 points, four rebounds and four assists from junior Lizzy Cretella (Cheshire, Conn.) along with 10 points, five boards and three assists from junior Mya Villard (Cromwell, Conn.).
Senior Alexa Srolovitz (Montreal, Que.) was the lone player in double figures with 11 points, three rebounds and three assists in the setback for Southern Maine (16-11), as the Huskies shot 34 percent (23-67) from the field and were outrebounded by a 44-28 margin. Eastern Connecticut converted 13 turnovers into 26 points on the night, as the Warriors nearly doubled up Southern Maine’s scoring total in the paint (34-18).
UMass Dartmouth swept the two regular season meetings from Eastern Connecticut, as the Corsairs prevailed by a 64-60 margin on January 16th at the Tripp Athletic Center before posting a 73-55 win in Willimantic, Conn. on February 2nd. UMass Dartmouth is seeking its first Little East tournament crown, while the Warriors are looking for their third title in the last five seasons and sixth overall.
(Photo Credit: Rainier Almonte '19)