Hot shooting and suffocating defense pave way for first-round tip-off win
By Bill Mullins/Sports Information Staff
WILLIMANTIC, Conn. -- The Eastern Connecticut State University women's basketball team got off to a 16-2 run in its season-opener against visiting Simmons College and eased to a 64-33 victory in the opener of the 33rd Annual Tip-Off Tournament Saturday evening at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.
At left: Shannon McCourt
The Warriors used a balanced offensive attack and staunch defense to power their way past the under-sized and over-matched Sharks of Simmons in the season-opener for both clubs.
The Warriors advance to play in Sunday's 3 p.m. championship game oagainst Endicott College, which used a strong second half to wipe out a six-point halftime lead in a 58-47 victory over and Connecticut College. Simmons faces Conn College in the 1 p.m. third-place matchup.
During the tone-setting run to open the game, sophomore Shannon McCourt (New Fairfield) scored the first ten points of the game for the Warriors, while freshmen Brianna Leonard (Amherst, MA) and Megan Cardarelli (Manchester) added four and two points, respectively. The Warriors kept up their stifling defense even after their hot shooting cooled as the first half wore on before heading into the locker room with a comfortable 36-15 lead on the strength of a 60.7 percent (17-28) to 33.3 percent (5-15) shooting advantage.
After a bucket by junior Georgia Kostopoulos with eight minutes remaining in pulled the Sharks to within 22-9, Simmons would get no closer the rest of the way. Eastern came out firing again in the second half, charged by an 11-4 run fresh out of the locker rooms.
The Warriors finished the game shooting an impressive 47.4 percent (27-57) compared to a tepid 27.1 percent (13-48) effort for Simmons. Each team took 11 attempts from the line with Eastern hitting on eight of its compared to just three successes for Simmons.
Eastern used a 9-0 run to take a 50-25 lead and turn it into a 59-25 lead with 3:32 to play, coming on the heels of a 6-3 spurt by Simmons. It is also worth noting that Simmons senior Liz O'Connor hit an extra-long range three-point jumper from almost 30 feet as time expired.
Fourteen different players saw action for Eastern in the contest, with eight getting into the scoring column and all but one grabbing at least one rebound. McCourt led the Warriors with a game-high 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting to go along with six rebounds and two assists.
Joining McCourt in double figures were fellow sophomore Kristina Forsman (Newington) and Leonard, with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Sophomore Taylor McBride (Willimantic), senior Jaymie Sommers (Voluntown), and freshman Erin Brooks (Billerica, MA) each tallied six while Cardarelli contributed five, and freshman Avi Morrison (Hampton, NH) poured in three points by canning the first three-point field goal attempt of her career.
Eastern controlled the battle of the boards, winning that contest by a staggering 47-23 margin. Freshman Jill Ritrosky (Pittsfield, MA) led the way with seven rebounds and was aided by McCourt and Cardarelli with six apiece while Forsman and Leonard each aided the cause with five of their own, with Leonard also racking up a game-high three steals. Forsman led the team in assists with six while Morrison added three and McCourt and senior Samantha Riccio (Avon) each contributed two helpers.
Junior Leah Davis led Simmons with nine points off the bench, while O'Connor and freshmen Jen Janiak and Gracie Rolfe accounted for five points each. On the boards, four different players - O'Connor, Kostopoulos, Rolfe, and freshman Nicole Alberghini - had three apiece for Simmons.
Endicott College 58, Connecticut College 47
Conn's 25 personal fouls led to 36 free throw attempts by Endicott, which outscored the Camels 25-8 from the stripe en route to the first-round win.
Endicott trailed by six at halftime but got a combined 23 points from juniors Jennifer White and Samantha Crough on the way to a 36-point second half. The Gulls recorded 16 of their second-half points from the stripe. White was 7-for-8 from the foul line in the game, sophomore Kayleen Whall 6-for-9. After missing five of six three-pointers in the first half, Endicott nailed 4 of 5 in the second half.
White led both teams with 20 points - 15 in the second half. Whall had 13 and Crough ten. Crouh, White and junior Jordan Ferland all had eight rebounds to lead the Gulls to a +8 advantage on the board.
Conn, which totaled 22 turnovers, shot just 24.1 percent from the floor in the second half and failed on all eight three-point tries after dropping in five of ten in the first 20 minutes. The Camels were 8-for-18 from the foul line.
Sophomore Carlee Smith was Conn's only double-figure scorer, finishing with ten points to go along with five assists and three steals.
With the win Eastern improves to 33-9 all-time in season openers, 18-1 under Head Coach Denise Bierly, including winning the last 16 in a row.