Women's Basketball: Keene's Three-Point Proficiency Overwhelms LEC Champ Warriors

This first-half block of Keene's Stephanie D'Annolfo was the 101st of the season for Lexis Foster (45) -- ranked second nationally in blocks per game -- and moved her to within two of breaking the career record of 158. (Photo by Olivia Morrison)
This first-half block of Keene's Stephanie D'Annolfo was the 101st of the season for Lexis Foster (45) -- ranked second nationally in blocks per game -- and moved her to within two of breaking the career record of 158. (Photo by Olivia Morrison)

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. –  Junior guard Sandi Purcell connected on seven of nine three-point field goals and the Keene State College women's basketball team led from start to finish in posting an 80-51 Little East Conference victory over Eastern Connecticut State University Wednesday evening at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.

Already assure of the No. 1 in the LEC tournament which gets underway with first-round games Tuesday, Eastern (17-7, 11-2 LEC) had a string of 11 straight LEC wins stopped after losing for only the third time in 11 home games. Now 9-1 on its opponent's home court this year, Keene (17-7, 10-3 LEC) maintained a share of second place in the conference with UMass Dartmouth, which nipped visiting UMass Boston, 68-66, Wednesday. The Owls are assured a first-round LEC tournament home game Tuesday.

A home win Saturday over UMass Boston or losses by Keene against Rhode Island College and UMass Dartmouth against the University of Southern Maine gives Eastern its second straight  outright LEC regular-season title. A winner of the last two LEC tournament titles, Eastern also shared the 2014-15 regular-season title with UMass Dartmouth.

The final 29-point losing margin was the largest in this 47-game series against Keene, the Warriors having won 37 and lost ten. Keene outscored Eastern by 30 from three-point range, sinking 13-of-21 while Eastern was 3-of-13.

Purcell is Keene's leading scorer this year but had managed to convert less than 30 percent of her three-point field goals heading into the game. Against Eastern, she was 4-of-5 in the first half and scored 16 of her game-high 27-point total in leading the Owls to a 23-point, 39-16 halftime lead. As a team, Keene was 6-of-9 from three-point range in the first half, when they pressured Eastern into 12.5 percent shooting from the floor.

The Warriors totaled only one field goal in the first quarter on 1-of-13 shooting and Keene turned their five turnovers into five points in building an 11-4 lead after one quarter. The Owls opened the second quarter on a 9-2 run – getting points from three different players while Eastern was missing three shots and commiting two turnovers – as Keene built its 23-point halftime lead.

Sophomore guard Emily McPadden followed Purcell with 18 points in 16 minutes off the bench on 7-of-11 shooting (3-of-4 from three-point range), and senior forward Stephanie D'Annolfo tossed in 11 points and dished out five assists with a team-high seven rebounds in addition to playing tight defense on Eastern senior scoring leader Jordyn Nappi (Southington).

In Eastern's 63-62 victory at Keene State three weeks ago, Purcell was 3-of-13 from the floor (2-of-9 from "three") and scored ten points, and McPadden was 1-of-6 from the floor and finished with three points.

Eastern freshman forward Mya Villard (Cromwell) led the Warriors with 14 points (8-of-10 FT), Nappi (2-of-8 FG) and freshman guard Sabrina LeMere (North Branford) adding 11 points each. Senior guard Julia DePoi (Brookfield)  led both teams with eight rebounds. LeMere reached double figures for the first time in her career when she contributed a career-high 20 minutes off the bench.

Keene outrebounded Eastern by five and totaled 11 points off second chances while Eastern was held scoreless after grabbing their seven offensive rebounds.

Eastern hosts UMass Boston Saturday at 1 p.m. in the conference and regular-season finale before hosting a first-round LEC contest Tuesday at 5:30 p.m