By Alex Solari, Staff Writer
The UMass Dartmouth women’s basketball team claimed its first NCAA Division III Tournament win in program history last Friday.
They competed against La Roche College with a 71-64 victory in the first round of the tournament at the Panzer Athletic Center.
Nakira Examond generated her eleventh double-double of the season, which helped her team bounce back after a slow start for 23 points and 15 rebounds.
Alicia Kutil lead the Corsairs in the second quarter, finishing with 18 points and seven boards. Rachel McCarron rounded out the double-digit scorers with 12 points, followed by junior Leah Douty’s nine.
For the La Roche College Redhawks, TiChina Mitchell generated a team-high of 19 points, while teammate Sabrina McLin brought in 17 points, and senior Mackenzie O’Donnell scored a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double.
The momentum began in favor of the strong Redhawk offense. McLin was on a roll, dropping eight of her teams’ first 11 points including two 3-pointers in the first five minutes. Within the first four minutes of the first quarter, Darrian Johnson put La Roche up 17-7 with another long-range basket. The Redhawks secured eight total points off UMass Dartmouth turnovers in the opening quarter to go up as much as 11 to close in the first 10 minutes.
UMass Dartmouth then completely turned the tables, dialing up the defense in the second quarter. Kutil scored the first six points with La Roche unable to score, triggering the 20-8 run over the quarter. McCarron put in back-to-back baskets to narrow the gap to 25-24. After another 3-pointer by Mitchell, the Corsairs had a 32-31 advantage going into halftime.
The Corsairs dominated for the remainder of the game. La Roche gave the Corsairs a hard fight, cutting within one possession on numerous occasions but the Corsairs consistently answered.
Halfway into the third quarter, Douty gave the Corsairs a three-point lead into a six-point margin with a 3-pointer and layup on back-to-back possessions.
With a five-point margin to start the fourth, a 57-55 Corsair lead was brought back up to six with swift McCarron and Examond layups. With just 1:12 remaining, Mitchell hit her third 3-pointer which again cut La Roche within three, but a timely Chelsea Houlihan defensive board and foul shots kept the Redhawks away.
This win led the Corsairs to face Montclair State University on Saturday, who are also known as the Red Hawks. In the start of the first quarter, a brief back-and-forth started, but quickly evolved into a shooting clinic for UMass Dartmouth, while MSU struggled to find the net. Kutil opened the game 5-of-5 from the field, scoring four straight points to put her team up by five seven minutes in.
In the last two and a half minutes of the quarter, the Corsairs made a quick 7-0 run, capped by a buzzer-beating runner by sophomore Kailyn Milligan to put the score at 23-13.
In the second quarter, UMass Dartmouth’s sharpshooting and the Red Hawks’ offensive struggles continued. Fast-break shots from Chelsea Houlihan and Douty put the Corsairs at a 13-point advantage midway through before Montclair State was able to sink two shots.
After Red Hawk Erica Snow secured a third 3-pointer near the end of the half, McCarron hit a layup to keep the Corsairs advantage with double-digits. The Corsairs headed into half time with a lead of 35-24.
The Red Hawks dialed up the pressure throughout the second half, but never fully caught up to the Corsairs. After a layup by Examond that pushed the lead to 14, MSU began to find a tempo. Sire brought the hosts back within single-digits at 2:32, and traded layups with Tobie to close the quarter with the Corsairs only up by 5.
MSU put their all into the fourth quarter and allowed Sage Bennett to put the Red Hawks within a possession at 7:02. The Corsairs battled through the pressure, pushing the lead back to seven, before the Red Hawks again cut within two with four minutes left. It was the Corsairs’ free throw performance that kept MSU at bay, as they went a perfect 6-for-6 in the final minute before Examond drove in the final dagger with a fast-break layup.
On Friday, the women’s basketball team will advance to the national round of 16 teams to compete against SUNY New Paltz at 5 p.m.