WALTHAM, Mass. – The American International College women's basketball team led for just 1.7 seconds, but it was the final 1.7 seconds after Brianna Bishop (Suffield, Conn.) hit the game-winning jumper to push the second seeded Yellow Jackets over the No. 7 Bloomfield College Bears in NCAA East Region first round action, 61-59.
With the win, AIC improved to 26-5 overall. The 26 wins ties the second most wins all-time by a Yellow Jacket team.
Trailing eight entering the final quarter of play, the Yellow Jackets turned to their sure-shot in senior guard Brianna Bishop (Suffield, Conn.). Bishop, who struggled from the floor over the first three frames, found her shot in the fourth, hitting a pair of trey's as part of an 8-0 Jacket run to cut the deficit to two, 48-46, with 7:03 left on the clock.
AIC did a better job of answering Bear buckets in the fourth, helping cut the lead and stay in the game. Following a Wilson layup, AIC senior Ebony Easter (San Antonio, Texas) dropped a three from the wing in response.
Jacket senior Kamika Mason (Long Beach, Calif.), playing with four fouls, remained tough inside, going 3-4 from the floor for six points and grabbing four boards in the quarter. The senior center finished with her seventh double-double of the season, 18 points and 11 rebounds.
AIC pulled even for the first time since the score read 0-0 at the 36 second mark. Easter knocked down a jumper to knot it up at 59 all. On the ensuing Bears possession, Mason ripped down a Bloomfield miss and raced down the court, prompting a Jacket timeout. Out the talk, the play was most certainly going through Bishop if it was there. Bishop received the inbounds pass and made a juke towards the lane, but pulled out and hit a fade away jumper on the right elbow to give American International its first lead in the near 40 minutes of play.
AIC went 10-12 from the field in the fourth, a stark difference from the 3-13 first quarter performance.
The Yellow Jackets got off to a slow start, misfiring on their first seven shots from the floor before freshman Dana Watts (Rochester, N.Y.) drove the lane for an easy chip-in. The rookie broke open the seal as Mason hit the gap on the next possession and laid it in for back-to-back buckets.
Despite the poor offensive first frame, 3-13 from the field, the Yellow Jackets hung with the Bears, taking a minor 14-9 deficit into the second stanza.
Bloomfield held AIC scoreless for the first 4:01 of the second, rattling off a 7-0 run to extend the lead to 12, 21-9. At the 5:59 mark, Easter drew the hoop and the harm, but failed to convert the free throw. On the other end, Mason hauled in a short three attempt from Ariel Wilson and fed Watts inside for the easy layup.
AIC got things going late in the half, heading into the break on an 8-2 run. Mason sunk a pair of free throws and ended the frame with a turnaround jumper in the lane. Junior Imani Stepney (Willingboro, N.J.) cleaned up on the offensive glass and threw it back up for an easy two. American International shot 40 percent in the second quarter, nearly double their output in the first.
Wilson opened the second half with a three-ball to extend the lead to seven points, 28-21. On consecutive possessions, Mason and Bishop made beautiful moves in the lane to cut the lead to three, midway through the third, but the Bears rattled off an 11-2 run to push their advantage to as many as 10.
Bishop scored all of her 13 points in the final 20 minutes of play. Easter and Watts chipped in 10 apiece as AIC shot 46.9 percent from the floor.
The Yellow Jackets return to action Saturday, Mar. 12 back at Bentley University's Dana Center for a semifinal showdown with No. 6 seeded New York Institute of Technology. Tip-off with the Bears is slated for 5 p.m.