SCRANTON, Pa. -- SUNY Poly's Stevie Ray was as good as advertised – especially when it mattered most.
The 5-foot-7 inch senior guard, who is ranked second nationally with a 24.7 point scoring average, poured in a game-high 43 points – including 24 of her team's final 31 – as the Wildcats eliminated the Eastern Connecticut State University women's basketball team from the NCAA Division III Tournament with an opening-round 80-72 victory Friday night at the John Long Center.
The win was the 12th straight for SUNY (26-2) this year and first NCAA victory in any sport in school history. The Wildcats advance to a second-round game Saturday at 5 p.m. against host Scranton, which erased a ten-point fourth-quarter deficit to squeeze past the University of New England, 49-48, in Friday's second semifinal.
Ray, who brought 121 three-pointers into the game (more than Eastern's team total), was 5-for-9 from three-point range, with her 30 shots overall nearly half of her team's total. She also had four rebounds, four assists, five steals and two blocks to minimize her eight turnovers.
Senior guard Jordyn Nappi (Southington) led four Eastern double-figure scorers with 19 points. She had five three-point field goals to give her a program-record 173 – two more than the previous mark.
Junior forward Kelsey Santagata (Stamford) had 14 points and 11 rebounds for Eastern, senior guard Julia DePoi (Brookfield) 13 points, six rebounds, six steals and two assists, and freshman forward Mya Villard (Cromwell) 11 points and nine rebounds. Senior center Lexis Foster (Groton) blocked three shots, extending her season (118) and career (174) records in that department.
Ray scored 27 of her points in the second half after her team carried a 39-29 lead into the break. Eastern led by six three minutes into the game but the Wildcats moved out to a 17-point lead with six minutes left in the third quarter.
Trailing by 16 midway through the third quarter, Eastern made a run to get back into contention, scoring ten straight points to pull to within six in the final minute of the third quarter. Junior guard Kelly Reardon (Holyoke, MA) connected on her only three-pointer of the game in that stretch and Nappi followed with another long-range bomb off a rebound from Millard. Moments later Santagata sank a jumper to make it 50-44 with just under a minute left in the period.
At that point, Ray scored all 22 of her team's points in a stretch of nine minutes, scoring 21 of her team's 28-point fourth-quarter total. She halted the Eastern surge with a three-pointer in the final 30 seconds of period to give SUNY a nine-point lead after three quarters, and after a pair of free throws by freshman guard Lizzy Cretella (Cheshire) cut the deficit back to seven in the first minute of the fourth quarter, Ray reeled off eight straight points to return the lead to double figures, 61-46, with seven minutes left. Five of her points came on two field goals and three more were the result of free throws.