WILLIMANTIC, Conn. -- The Eastern Connecticut State University women's basketball team missed ten of 12 shots in the fourth quarter but nailed 11 of 14 free throws over the final ten minutes to withstand a comeback by the University of Southern Maine and end the regular season with a 62-54 Little East Conference victory Saturday afternoon at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.
Entering play, Eastern (11-14, 8-6 LEC) and Southern Maine (13-12, 9-5 LEC) were locked into the No. 4 and No. 3 seeds, respectively, in the LEC tournament, which gets underway Tuesday with first-round games. The Warriors will host No. 5 Western Connecticut at 5:30 p.m. and the Huskies will meet visiting Keene State College at 7 p.m.
Eastern led from start to finish in the game Saturday and led by 16 in the final minute of the third quarter before USM battled back to within three points, 54-51, with 90 seconds left. Eastern managed to sink six of eight free throws in the final 41.2 seconds, however. Sophomore guard Julie Jordan (Sterling) converted four of six in a span of less than 20 seconds, and senior guard Kelly Reardon (Holyoke, MA) swished a pair with 11.2 seconds left as Eastern opened up an 11-point lead.
Junior forward Kelsey Santagata (Stamford) knocked in a career-high 21 points to lead Eastern's four double-digit scorers Sophomore forward Mya Villard (Cromwell) added 15 points and a game-high 12 rebounds – her seventh double-double in the last 11 games – with Jordan adding 11 points and nine rebounds without a turnover in 40 minutes. Villard and Jordan were both 5-of-6 from the stripe, where the Warriors converted 13 of 16 in the game. Sophomore guard Sabrina LeMere (North Branford) added ten points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Eastern failed on 11 of 12 three-point attempts in the game, but turned the ball over a season-low six times (after commiting 30 in a loss at Western Connecticut Wednesday).
At left: Senior Kelly Reardon (2) and sophomore Kim LeMere celebrate as the horn sounds in the Warriors' 62-54 victory over the University of Southern Maine in the final regular-season game Saturday on Seniors' Day. (Photo by Nick McAneny)
Freshman guard Kristen Curley scored 11 of her team-high 15 points in the second half to help the Huskies close a ten-point halftime gap after shooting under 30 percent from the floor over the first 20 minutes. Sophomore forward Chantel Eells led USM with 11 rebounds.
Following the game, Reardon and forward Emily Menendez (Shelton) -- both four-year players and members of two LEC tournament championship teams -- and their families were honored on Seniors' Day.
The win allows Eastern to split the season series with Southern Maine, after the Huskies won by 13 points just over a month ago in Gorham.