Blue Devils Win Overtime Contest Against St. Francis (PA), Clinch Northeast Conference Tournament Berth
Central Connecticut (15-8, 10-3) secured a spot in the Northeast Conference Tournament with a 70-67 overtime home win over St. Francis (PA) (9-14, 7-5). It is CCSU's first berth since the 2005-06 season. Freshman Shontice Simmons had 14 points to lead five Blue Devils in double figures. Freshman Gabrielle Oglesby added 12 points, including six in game's final 6:31, and seven rebounds.
The Blue Devils led by as many as 14 points in the first half, but they lost their lead with just less than four minutes remaining in regulation. The teams traded leads four times over the final moments of the second half, with Central Connecticut taking the last advantage, 56-54, on a three-pointer from Simmons at the 2:56 mark. Red Flash freshman Kelsey Caruthers made the front end of a pair of free throws to draw SFPA within one point. She missed the second, and Oglesby grabbed the rebound for CCSU. After a miss by sophomore Kerrianne Dugan at the other end, Oglesby grabbed the offensive rebound and hit the put back to stretch Central Connecticut's lead to 58-55. SFPA senior Britney Hodges hit a three-pointer with 16 ticks left to tie it, and neither team capitalized on possessions in the final seconds.
St. Francis (PA) junior Janie Killian made the first overtime basket, but sophomore Leanne Crockett responded with a three-pointer for the Blue Devils. The triple put Central Connecticut in front for good. Oglesby extended the lead to 63-60 with a layup, and Simmons, after a Dugan steal, hit two free throws to make it a five-point game. Oglesby added another bucket after Red Flash senior cut the lead to 65-62, and the Blue Devils held off a five-point surge from St. Francis (PA) sophomore Allison Daly over the final 20 seconds with 3-of-4 free throw shooting.
Simmons finished the game with four rebounds and four assists in addition to her 14 points. Oglesby added a season-best three blocks to her efforts. Dugan had 12 points and six rebounds, while Crockett and junior P.J. Wade each scored 11 points. Crockett also had six rebounds, four assists and a career-high three blocks. The Blue Devils had not had five players score in double figures during a single game since a 77-62 win over Robert Morris on Feb. 24, 2001.
Hodges paced St. Francis (PA) with 21 points. Daly had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, while sophomore Samantha Leach totaled 12 points. Freshman Brittany Lilley had 11 points, five rebounds and six steals.
St. Francis (PA) led for the game's first 3:25. The Blue Devils took their first lead, 9-8, on a three-point play by sophomore Justina Udenze, who totaled seven points and a team-high eight rebounds. The Red Flash, which started the game 5-of-8 from the floor, went ahead 12-9 before a 9-0 Central Connecticut run gave the hosts the first half lead for good. SFPA stayed within three points, 21-18, before a 13-2 Blue Devil run stretched the advantage to 34-20 with 3:12 left to play in the opening 20 minutes. The CCSU defense limited St. Francis (PA) to 1-of-13 shooting during the run, which included an 0-of-9 stretch during an 8-0 Blue Devil burst.
The Red Flash closed the first half with a 9-2 run, trimming the deficit to 36-29 at the break. Hodges led all players with 13 first half points. Wade had all 11 of her points in the first half.
Both teams started the second half cold. Central Connecticut went 2-of-11 with eight turnovers, while St. Francis (PA) shot 3-of-13 and had six turnovers during the first 8:26. The Red Flash cut the margin to 40-35 during that time frame.
Central Connecticut, now riding a three-game winning streak, will be on the road for its next two games. The trip begins on Saturday, Feb. 14 at Bryant. A 1 p.m. tip-off is scheduled. The Blue Devils lost, 64-61, to the Bulldogs earlier this season.