Second Half Comeback Propels Rhode Island College Women’s Basketball To LEC Title Game
Second-Half Comeback Sends RIC to LEC Tournament Final
Providence, R.I. – Senior guard Stephanie Prusko (Lincoln, RI) poured in a game-high 17 points, including 11 in the second half, to lead the top-seeded Rhode Island College to a 56-46 victory over fourth-seeded Western Connecticut in the semifinals of the 2014 Little East Conference Women's Basketball Tournament, played at The Murray Center on Friday night.
With the win, Rhode Island College (19-8) advances to its second Little East Conference Tournament Championship game in the last three seasons. The Anchorwomen will face either second-seeded Southern Maine or third-seeded Eastern Connecticut in the title game on Saturday, March 1 (4 p.m.) at The Murray Center.
RIC was able to overcome a poor shooting effort thanks to its pressure defense and its ability to crash the boards. Despite shooting just 27 percent (16-for-59) from the floor, the Anchorwomen forced the Colonials into 20 turnovers and limited Western to just nine points through the final 15 minutes of the game.
Meanwhile, Rhode Island College held a 44-33 advantage on the glass and out-rebounded the Colonials, 25-15, in the second half alone. The Anchorwomen corralled 20 offensive rebounds as a team and totaled 21 second-chance points as a result.
Prusko went 7-for-7 from the free throw line and added six rebounds for the hosts, while sophomore forward Vandell Andrade (Providence, RI) tallied 11 points and 11 rebounds, including seven offensive boards. The reigning Little East Conference Player of the Week also added four steals and three blocks, while senior forward Cara Paladino (Arlington, MA) chipped in with nine points and nine rebounds for the Anchorwomen. Freshman guard Alex Moore (West Newbury, MA) filled the stat-sheet with four points, five rebounds, four assists, three blocks, and two steals.
On the other end, senior forward Sciarra Brandt (Thomaston, CT) led Western Connecticut (16-11) with 11 points, seven rebounds, and four assists, while freshman guard Colleen Cosker (East Hartford, CT) contributed nine points, two assists, and two steals. Sophomore guard Kerri Stolle (Warren, CT) also netted nine points for the Colonials, while junior guard Caroline Brasa (East Hartford, CT) pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.
Rhode Island College opened up the action on a 7-2 scoring run, but watched as Western Connecticut rattled off 12 straight points, keyed by seven points from Brandt, to take a 14-7 lead over the hosts. Sophomore guard Michelle Lagrotteria (Niantic, CT) finally snapped Western's scoring run with a three-pointer at the 10:30 mark to pull the Anchorwomen within four, 14-10.
The Colonials went on to again jump ahead by seven, 19-12, with 8:36 remaining in the stanza, but RIC bounced back with seven unanswered points to tie the game, 19-19, with just 3:58 on the clock. After being held without a bucket for nearly five full minutes, the visitors finally halted the scoring drought at the 3:40 mark, courtesy of a jumper from freshman guard Emily Dobson (Westerly, RI) that gave the Colonials at two-point lead.
As the two teams traded baskets over the final minutes of the half, sophomore guard Danielle LeBlanc (Warwick, RI) drove to the rim and connected on a layup with just six seconds on the clock to tie the game, 23-23. However, it was Cosker's buzzer-beating floater from just outside the paint that sent Western into the break with a 25-23 advantage.
The Anchorwomen quickly tied things up and soon took a two-point lead coming out of the intermission thanks to a pair of free throws from Prusko, but the Colonials responded to regain the lead and eventually extended that lead to seven, 39-32, after Stolle buried a layup with 14:02 left to play.
Despite trailing for much of the game, Rhode Island College finally managed to flip the script midway through the second half after a 14-2 scoring run gave the hosts a five-point lead, 46-41, with 6:25 on the clock. Meanwhile, RIC's stingy defensive attack held the Colonials without a field goal for almost 10 full minutes, until Stolle's layup at the 4:08 mark got Western out of its' shooting slump and cut the deficit to two, 46-44.
However, the two-point margin would prove to be the closest the Colonials came to regaining the lead, as the Anchorwomen closed out the action on a 10-2 scoring run en route to the 10-point victory. Western Connecticut was limited to just two field goals over the final 10 minutes of the game.
The Colonials shot 40 percent (19-for-47) from the field, 25 percent (2-for-8) from beyond the arc, and 60 percent (6-for-10) from the free throw line.
RIC connected on 81 percent (21-for-26) of its free throws and 27 percent (3-for-11) of its three-pointers.
The Anchorwomen committed 13 turnovers of their own and only dished out seven assists as a team, while the Colonials handed out 11 assists on the evening.