Above: Shannon McCourt shoots for two of her 13 points against Westfield
Warriors lead from start to finish in 72-66 decision over Owls
WESTFIELD, Mass. - A point of emphasis in the Westfield State University scouting report likely did not include preventing Eastern Connecticut State University guard Samantha Riccio (Avon) from shooting.
Entering the game shooting under 30 percent and averaging less than three points in six games, Riccio connected on four consecutive perimeter shots early in the second half to help the Warriors maintain a double-digit lead in a 72-66 non-conference women's basketball triumph at the Woodward Center.
At left: Samantha Riccio
The victory put an end to a five-game losing streak for Eastern (2-5), which never trailed in the game and defeated Westfield (3-3) for the 20th straight time and 22nd time in 23 series meetings since 1974.
Managing only two points in six first-half minutes, Riccio nailed five of seven shots in 12 second-half minutes and finished as one of four Eastern players in double figures, with a season-high 12.
With the Warriors leading by nine points five minutes into the second half, Riccio outscored the Owls 8-4 in a three-minute stretch, sinking four consecutive perimeter shots. Her fourth one with just under 12 minutes left prompted a timeout from Westfield, which trailed by 13, 56-43.
Eastern led by nine with five minutes left before the Owls made a run, cutting the the Warriors' lead to three twice in the final minute. Timely free-throw shooting by Eastern kept Westfield from getting any closer, however. Behind sophomore guard Kristina Forsman (Newington) and sophomore forward Shannon McCourt (New Fairfield), Eastern converted five straight tries in the final minutes. Forsman, who had given the Warriors a six-point lead with 2:33 left with a conventional three-point play, hit both ends of a two-shot foul with 22.4 seconds left, and sophomore guard Taylor McBride (Willimantic) made one of two with 9.1 seconds left to ice the win.
McCourt, Forsman and freshman guard Megan Cardarelli (Manchester) combined for 26 first-half points to power Eastern to a nine-point halftime lead. The Warriors scored 11 of the game's first 13 points, and soon after the hosts cut the gap to one with a 14-6 spurt, Eastern ended the half by scoring 15 of the final 20 points.
Forsman, McBride and freshman guard Jill Ritrosky (Pittsfield, MA) combined on 12 of 15 marksmanship from the foul line and the Warriors turned the ball over only ten times.
Forsman had 15 points, McCourt 13, Riccio 12 and freshman forward Brianna Leonard (Amherst, MA) 11 points, five rebounds and three assists. Ritrosky led all Eastern players with eight rebounds, McCourt adding seven and McBride handing out four assists.
Jen Ashton led Westfield with a game-high 16 points and added five assists and three rebounds and Gabby Felix had eight points and nine rebounds.
Eastern visits Amherst College Thursday at 5:30 p.m.