WOMEN'S BASKETBALL CAPTURES SIXTH STRAIGHT GNAC TITLE WITH 68-57 VICTORY OVER ST. JOSEPH'S

Feb. 25, 2012

Box Score

BOSTON, Mass. - Junior forward Fiona O'Dwyer (Stamford, Conn.) netted a game-high 24 points and senior guard Meghan Kirwan(Melrose, Mass.) added 20 points to propel the Emmanuel College women's basketball team to a 68-57 victory over Saint Joseph's College (ME) in the 2012 Great Northeast Athletic Conference Championship at the Jean Yawkey Center Saturday afternoon. With the victory, the Saints improve to 22-6 on the year to capture their sixth consecutive and 14th overall GNAC title while the loss drops the Monks to 20-8 on the season.

With the score deadlocked at 34-34 at the half, Emmanuel came out of the gates in the second frame on a quick 4-0 spurt as O'Dwyer netted a pair of buckets to bump the Saints ahead 38-34 with 18:44 left in the action. Senior center Ashely Geel (St. George, Maine) made sure to stop any chance of a big run, demanding the ball in the low post for the Monks following O'Dwyer's second hoop. Geel used an aggressive low post move to spin to the block for an easy layup to get Saint Joseph's back within a hoop at 38-36.

And old fashion three-point play by Kirwan followed by a jumper by sophomore center Victoria Johnson(Syracuse, N.Y.) gave the Saints a seven point cushion at 45-38 with 15:28 remaining but the Monks responded following a timeout with four straight points on layups by junior forward Alyssa Grigware (Biddeford, Maine) and junior guard Danyelle Shufelt (Sutton, Vt.) to make it a one-possession game (45-42) with just under 15 minutes left in the contest.

A three by Saints junior guard Laura Benvenuto (Wycoff, N.J.) at the 13:12 mark gave EC a 50-44 advantage before the Monks went on a 7-2 run capped by an and-one layup and free throw by sophomore guard Abby Young (North Yarmouth, Maine) to pull the Monks to within a point at 52-51 with 7:36 left on the clock. Unfortunately for Saint Joseph's, it would be the closest they'd come the remaining of the game as Emmanuel answered with a 6-0 spurt of its own sealed with a jumper from inside the paint by freshman forward Lena Negri(Arlington, Va.) to make it 58-51 at the 4:30 mark.

On the ensuing possession, Geel was able to convert a jumper to make it a five-point game (58-53) but two more O'Dwyer jumpers increased the Saints lead to nine points (62-53) with under three minutes left in regulation.

With under two minutes remaining, Saint Joseph's sophomore forward Lindsay Moore (Barrington, N.H.) and Kirwan would each hit one of two free throws on alternating possessions to account for the 63-54 score with just 1:20 remaining in the championship.

Kirwan notched two more free throws with 55 tics left to give EC its first double-digit lead of the afternoon, making it 65-54. Benevenuto would add another free throw with 38 seconds left before Moore went to the line one more time, converting one of two to make it 66-55 with 22 seconds remaining. Young would connect on a jumper for the Monks final bucket before junior guard Chenae Earle(South Orange, N.J.) capped the championships scoring for EC with a pair of free throws to give the Saints the 68-57 victory and berth to the NCAA tournament.

In the first half of play, Saint Joseph's jumped out to an early 11-6 lead following a pair of free throws from Grigware at the 15:10 mark. O'Dwyer made sure to keep the Saints within striking distance, sinking a pair of jumpers to pull the hosts to within one at 11-10 with 13:55 left in the opening stanza.

The Monks continued to control the action early as senior forward Megan McDevitt (Cumberland, Maine) was on fire early, connecting on a pair of threes including a trifecta at the 10:55 mark to give St. Joes an 18-14 edge.

The Saints would fight back to tie the game at 20-20 as senior guard Breanna Ockimey(Philadelphia, Pa.) evened the score with a jumper with just under nine minutes to play in the opening stanza. The squads would trade buckets to keep the score locked at 22-all before the visitors went on a quick 4-0 spurt on back-to-back jumpers by Young to take a 26-22 lead with 6:21 left in the half. Over the next two minutes of action, Kirwan would convert two old fashioned three point plays with the ladder tying the contest at 28-28 with 4:27 remaining in the first.

With 1:19 to play in the first half, Ockimey nailed one of two from the charity stripe to give the Saints their largest lead of the half at 34-30 but a pair of fouls by EC would allow for Young and Grigware to go to the line for a two shots in the bonus and even the score at 34-34 before the first half buzzer, setting the tone for the Saints second half fireworks.

Along with her 24 points, O'Dwyer finished the afternoon with a game-high 10 rebounds for her seventh double-double of the season while Kirwan added nine board and a game-high eight assists. Negri chipped in with eight points and seven rebounds coming off the bench.

For Saint Joseph's, Young led the way with 11 points and nine rebounds in just 15 minutes of action. Moore and McDevitt each added 10 points while Geel ended the contest with eight points and a team-high five helpers.

This was the first-ever appearance for the Monks in the GNAC championship while the Saints were making their 15th trip to the conference finals. Emmanuel has now earned the GNAC automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament in 11 of the last 12 seasons and will now have to wait for Monday's selection show to find out their opponent and where they will be seeded. Saint Joseph's will have to wait for an at large bid to the NCAA tourney as they did not declare for this year's ECAC New England Championships.

2012 GNAC All-Tournament Team
Megan Black - Suffolk University
Amanda Purcell - Rivier College
Ashley Geel - St. Joseph's College
Megan McDevitt - St. Joseph's College
Breanna Ockimey - Emmanuel College
Fiona O'Dywer - Emmanuel College
Most Valuable Player
Meghan Kirwan - Emmanuel College