March 16, 2009

Philadelphia, Pa. - Top-seeded Franklin Pierce opened the second half on a blistering 20-6 run to open up a commanding 19 point lead and never looked back, claiming its second straight NCAA East Region crown with a 78-54 win over third-seeded Stonehill on Monday evening at Holy Family University's Campus Center.

Stonehill, which was making its fifth-ever appearance in a regional final, ends its season at 22-9, while the Ravens advance to the Elite Eight, which will take place next week in San Antonio, Texas.

"We struggled in February," said head coach Trish Brown. "We had some injuries to overcome and some adversity and for them to finish this strong and get to the regional final - I'm really proud."

Franklin Pierce did a great deal of its damage from behind the arc going 12-for-22, including a 7-for-12 performance in the second half. Conversely, the Skyhawks struggled from three-point land, connecting on just two of their 13 attempts.

The catalyst for the Ravens was All-America Johannah Leedham, who finished with a game-high 24 points and added five rebounds, four assists and six steals.

Franklin Pierce started the game with nine straight points and never relinquished the lead. Stonehill kept the game close and went into the half down just five at 34-29, despite having three starters on the bench for major portions of the frame due to foul trouble.

Bethany Tighe (North Easton, Mass.) helped keep the Skyhawks close, scoring 12 of her team-high 16 points in the first half, including the 1,000th of her career.

With the score 54-35, Stonehill made a final push, closing to within 13 at 57-44 with 11:31 left following a Kristen McWhirter (Melvin Village, N.H.) steal and fastbreak finish.

The lead stayed between 13 and 16 over the next three minutes, but Franklin Pierce went on a game-sealing 14-0 run, in which the lead grew to 28 at 78-50 and coincided with the Skyhawks not making a basket in the final seven minutes of the game.

McWhirter was the only other Stonehill player in double figures with 11 points and six rebounds. Both Kelsey Simonds (Middleboro, Mass.) and Amanda Smith (Penacook, N.H.) added six points.

Simonds was named to her second straight NCAA East Region All-Tournament team, while Tighe, who finishes her career with 1,015 points, joins her on the squad.

"The past four years have been great," said Tighe. "I've grown so much as a player and I can't say enough about my teammates."

NCAA East Region All-Tournament Team Toby Martin, Franklin Pierce Jennifer Leedham, Franklin Pierce Johannah Leedham, Franklin Pierce (Most Valuable Player) Kelsey Simonds, Stonehill Bethany Tighe, Stonehill