Bentley Bounces Back in 4th to Earn 5th Trip to Sweet 16 in 6 Years, 77-67 over Queens

Macchi Smith
Macchi Smith

WALTHAM, Mass. – Sophomore guard Lauren Green (Damascus, Md./Damascus HS) nailed four threes during a 17-point effort, junior forward Jen Gemma (Milton/Fontbonne Academy) scored 16 and the Falcon bench came up big as Bentley University earned its fifth trip to the regional championship and Sweet 16 in the last six years with a grueling 77-66 win over Queens College (N.Y.) Saturday night in the semifinals of the NCAA Division II Women's Basketball East Regional at the Dana Center.

Bentley, a regional finalist for the 21st time in the last 29 years and the region's top seed , will meet sixth-seeded NYIT Monday night at seven with a trip to Sioux Falls, S.D. for the Elite Eight at stake.

The Falcons, 27-5 and number 25 in the most recent WBCA/USA Today Division II rankings, saw a 15-point second-quarter lead evaporate in the third but closed with a 36-25 run over the final 12:20 to pull out the win.

Bentley, which had an 11-2 lead early, used a three-point barrage to stretch a six-point lead to 36-21 with 49 seconds left in the first half. After a lay-up from junior center Melina Kollia (Athens, Greece) began what would turn into an 11-2 run, Green connected from deep from the right side, senior guard Jane White (Amherst, N.H./Souhegan HS) did the same from the left corner and Green drilled another, with a Queens basket separating White's and Green's second.

It was down to an 11-point game at the break after Queens scored the final four points, a jumper from senior forward Elisabeth Gully (Rego Park, N.Y.) and two free throws from freshman guard Kaitlyn Mahon (Middle Village, N.Y.).

That run grew into 16 unanswered as Bentley went scoreless for the first five minutes of the second half.  Junior guard Madison Rowland (Albany, N.Y.) scored the first eight, Gully scored on a third-chance opportunity and sophomore guard Merrick Rowland (Albany, N.Y.) gave the Knights their first lead of the night with a fast-break lay-up with 6:30 left in the second.

Bentley's first basket of the second half came with 6:28 elapsed, a driving lay-up by Macchi Smith (Los Angeles, Calif./Windward School), a sophomore guard who helped settle the Falcon offense after a rash of turnovers.

Smith (4 points) and Kollia (2), two key contributors off the bench, helped Bentley go into the fourth up one, 47-46.

After a three-point play by Gully evened the game at 49 with 8:19 to play, Bentley used a pair of threes to take a lead it would never give back. Sophomore guard Trevena Bennett (Union, N.J./Gill St. Bernard's School), who played only seconds before the fourth, connected from the left corner and Green followed from the right wing

Kollia, who finished with a career-best 12, hit a runner and Bennett drained another three, this one from the left corner. That five-point run made it 63-54 with three minutes left and the Falcons made a parade to the line from there. They made 14 of 18 the rest of the way, holding off any comeback thoughts the Knights had.

Green, who also had five assists, made four of her eight launches from downtown. Gemma, the Northeast-10 Player of the Year, grabbed seven rebounds in addition to scoring 16, and Kollia hit all six of her shots from the floor.

Freshman guard Megan Lewis (Sevenoaks, England) just missed a double-double (10 points, nine rebounds) for the Falcons. Smith finished with eight points, four rebounds and two steals, and Bennett was two-of-three from three-point land

Madison Rowland had a huge second half for Queens (21-9), scoring 22 of her 29 after the break. She also filled the stat sheet with 10 rebounds, five assists and five steals.

Bentley shot 62.5 percent in the first half and finished the game at .521 while holding the Knights to .390. Rebounds (35-29) and threes (7-3) also favored the home team, which saw 24 giveaways lead to 22 Queens points. The Knights lost the ball 18 times and the Falcons came up with 20 points off those. Bench scoring was a major plus for Bentley, with 28 points on 12 of 16 shooting. The Queens reserves totaled 12 points on 5-of-14 from the floor.

Bentley and NYIT met in the Dana Center back on Nov. 30 with the Falcons prevailing 71-55 behind a 23-point, 12-rebound effort by Gemma.