WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – The Eastern Connecticut State University women's basketball team battled back to tie the game with seven minutes left in the third quarter after giving up the first 14 points of the game, but Trinity College answered by outscoring the Warriors 24-7 the rest of the quarter in taking a 75-67 victory in the first round of the Eastern Tip-Off Tournament Saturday evening at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.
Trinity (1-0), in its first tournament appearance, knocks Eastern (0-1) into the consolation game for the first time since 1996, and will face Westfield State University (2-0), which outran SUNY New Paltz (0-1), 104-88, in Sunday's championship game at 3 p.m. Eastern and New Paltz meet at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Trailing by ten after one quarter, Eastern outscored Trinity by five in the second quarter and later pulled even, 31-all, on a free throw by sophomore Lizzy Cretella (Cheshire) with seven minutes left in the third quarter. At that point, Courtney Erickson scored five consecutive points for Trinity on two inside buckets and the completion of a three-point play, and Erica Junquet followed with her only three-point field goal of the game as Trinity regained the momentum, 39-31,
Erickson had 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Bantams, with Becky Reifler leading the Bantams with 17 points to lead five double-digit scorers. Cretella topped all players with 19 points and shared team-high rebounding honors with seven. Held to two points in the first half, Eastern sophomore Mya Villard (Cromwell) totaled 15 after the break, following Cretella with17 points and equaling her team-high of seven rebounds. Sophomore Sabrina LeMere (North Branford) -- who sparked the Warriors surge back from the early deficit -- had ten points and five assists for the Warriors.
The Warriors started three sophomores, with Julie Jordan (Sterling) and Cretella making their first career starts.
There were six lead changes and six ties between Westfield and SUNY New Paltz – two NCAA tournament clubs a year ago – but the Owls got 48 points off the bench, playing all 15 players – ten of them contributing double-figure minutes.
One of the top scoring teams in Division III last year, Westfield led 54-46 at the break and survived several comeback efforts by the Hawks, which pulled them as close as three midway through the third quarter. Leading by eight with 1:40 left, Westfield rattled off eight in a row to move out to a 16-point lead in the final 40 seconds.
Westfield outscored New Paltz by 17 from the foul line. Led by Lucy Barrett (9-of-9) and Kierra McCarthy (7-of-8), the Owls converted 30 of 35 from the stripe.
Barrett led all players with 28 points (7-of-11 FG), McCarthy adding 18 points, five steals, and eight rebounds. Chelseae Moussette chipped in 11 points and seven assists.
Lindsay Bettke (26 points) and Paige Niemeyer (21) sparked New Paltz, offensively, with Madison Van Pelt leading both teams with 11 rebounds.