EC
O'Dwyer

Providence, R.I. -- Junior forward Laura Benvenuto and junior forward Fiona O’Dwyer made key layups in the final minutes to help lead Emmanuel past Rhode Island College 57-52 in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

The Saints (24-6) advance to the sectional rounds on March 9-10, while the Anchorwomen (25-4) end their season. RIC closes out the program’s most successful campaign, having established new school records for wins (25), winning percentage (.862) and Little East wins (13-1). The Anchorwomen captured the program’s first Little East Conference regular-season and tournament championships. It was RIC’s first home loss (14-1) of the year.

Senior guard Brianna Ockimeyled Emmanuel with 13 points and six rebounds. Senior guard Meghan Kirwan contributed 10 points and five rebounds. Freshman forward Lena Negri chipped in with six points and a game-high 16 rebounds, to go along with four assists and three blocks.

The first half was a physical battle as Emmanuel was whistled for 13 fouls and the Anchorwomen capitalized by making 11-of-14 (79 percent) from the charity stripe. The Saints were able to pull away and build a seven-point, 21-14 lead with 8:36 left in the first stanza. With EC down 9-8, a layup by Negri, a steal and two free throws from Benvenuto and a layup by sophomore forward Liz Daley made it 14-9.

A jumper by Riley made it 14-11, but Benvenuto and Ockimey each cashed in layups to raise the margin to seven. RIC then mounted a comeback on the strength of a 9-2 run. Junior forward Courtney Burns made two layups, Gaudet knocked down three free throws and Riley nailed a jumper to put the Anchorwomen on top  24-23 with just more than five minutes left.

A layup by Saint sophomore guard Bria Tiro made it 32-31 as the buzzer sounded. RIC shot 27 percent (9-for-33) from the field and struggled mightily at 23 percent (3-for-13) from downtown. Emmanuel shot 35 percent (12-for-34) from the field and 50 percent (2-for-4) from the 3-point line. The Saints outrebounded RIC, 28-22, over the first 20 minutes.

Emmanuel led, 41-37, with 15:18 left in the game, but a jumper by Riley, 3-pointer by Gaudet and bucket from Burns staked the hosts to a 44-41 advantage at 12:38.

A 6-0 run, paced by a layup and 3-ball by Ockimey put the visitors on top 47-44 with 8:59 remaining. A jumper by RIC freshman forward Katie Donovan and a layup by Riley put the Anchorwomen back on top 48-47 but Emmanuel junior guard Chenae Earle answered right back with a 3-pointer to make it 50-48 at 7:12.

Riley cut the deficit to one point 51-50 with a strong post hook shot at 5:23, but Emmanuel held RIC off the scoreboard on its next three possessions with an emphatic block by Negri and forcing the Anchorwomen into a pair of shot clock violations.

The Saints weren’t able to capitalize as EC turned the ball over three times. Gaudet finally broke through with a follow up off a missed layup to give the hosts a 52-51 lead at 3:08. Burns grabbed a rebound off a missed Gaudet trey and was fouled by Kirwan, knocking the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Player of the Year out of the game with her fifth foul.

On the ensuing possession, Benvenuto drove strong to the rack and converted a tough shot to regain the lead for the Saints 53-52 with just under two minutes left to play.

RIC sophomore guard Stephanie Prusko swiped a saving rebound attempt by Earle to give the Anchorwomen the ball with 28 seconds left, but a turnover with 12.2 ticks left on the clock gave Emmanuel possession.

Both squads called 30-second timeouts. On the inbounds play, Emmanuel broke RIC’s defensive pressure and Negri found O’Dwyer all alone under the basket for the deciding layup to make it 55-52 with 5.4 seconds left.

O’Dwyer stole the pass at midcourt and sealed the game with a pair of free throws.

Gaudet ended her career with a game-high 21 points and contributed six rebounds, three assists and three steals. Riley posted a double-double with 15 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. Burns had eight points and eight rebounds.

Emmanuel shot 31 percent (20-for-64) from the field, 29 percent (4-for-14) from downtown and 57 percent (13-for-23) from the charity stripe. RIC shot 28 percent (17-for-61) from the field, 19 percent from outside (4-for-21) and 74 percent (14-for-19) from the free throw line. The Saints dominated the glass, outrebounding RIC 57-39, which included 22 offensive boards.