For the first time in Keene State history, the women’s basketball team took home the Little East Conference (LEC) championship title.
Sunday, Feb. 26, they returned to Eastern Connecticut State University (ESCU) for the Little East Conference (LEC) championship game. Keene managed its first tournament title in the 31-year history of the tournament with a 71-58 victory over the two-time defending LEC tournament champion, the Warriors.
Keene was ranked eighth in the NCAA Division III Northeast Region, received the NCAA Division III tournament bid and was awarded the LEC tournament champion, which gave the program its third NCAA invitation, second as a member of Division III. Ranked fourth in the NCAA Division III Northeast poll, Eastern is in the mix for an NCAA tournament at-large selection.
The Owls outscored the Warriors 16-8 in the first quarter. Stephanie D’Annolfo had 21 points, six rebounds, three assists and one steal.
Sandi Purcell had a team-high of 23 points. Purcell is now the 20th women’s basketball player in Keene State history who has made it to 1,000 points.
Eastern hit a three right off the bat, receiving the first points of the game. Keene State had back-to-back baskets from D’Annolfo, putting the Owls ahead by two. Little did the Owls know, it would be a lead they would never give up. Keene State extended their lead to 13-6 after Amanda Petrow got a rebound and sent it right back up the court to make a basket. The Warriors could only make one basket before the sound of the buzzer went off.
The Warriors brought the lead to two, with a three-point shot. D’Annolfo and Purcell answered back for the Owls. D’Annolfo hit the final basket before both teams headed to the locker room for the half with the Owls up by eight.
Keene State kept extending their lead even further; they got up to a 14-point lead, as D’Annolfo hit a layup with 6:21 left in the third quarter. Purcell hit a basket from beyond the arc, sustaining the double-digit lead, 51-38 KSC.
Eastern managed to dish out a three-point shot in the beginning of the fourth to shorten the lead to seven. With just eight minutes left in the game, the Owls ignited and went on a 12-2 run, earning their largest lead.
This would take the Owls home and seal the win, 71-58. The Owls will play Friday, March 3 against the University of Rochester in New York..
Shelby Iava can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org