The second seeded Central Connecticut women's basketball team dropped a 73-62 decision to third seeded St. Francis (PA) in the Northeast Conference Tournament semifinals on Saturday afternoon in Fairfield, CT. The Blue Devils, now 18-13 overall this season, can earn a berth in the Postseason WNIT if Sacred Heart wins the NEC title next week. Freshman Shontice Simmons led the Blue Devils with 15 points. She also had seven rebounds. Freshman Gabrielle Oglesby and sophomore Leanne Crockett each added 13 points in the loss.
The two teams traded leads three times in the first half, and the score was tied on five occasions. St. Francis (PA) led by as many as six points over the opening seven-plus minutes. Trailing 15-9 at the 12:23 mark, Oglesby started a 6-0 Blue Devil run that would tie the game. Central Connecticut went ahead, 21-18, on a three-pointer by Crockett with 7:21 left.
The Blue Devils built their lead to 26-22 before a pair of Red Flash triples erased it. Freshman Brittany Lilley hit the first for SFPA, and sophomore Allison Daly made the second. The three-pointers sparked a 10-0 run that gave St. Francis (PA) a six-point lead with 2:06 remaining in the half. Central Connecticut narrowed the margin to 32-30, but sophomore Samantha Leach hit a jumper with 13 seconds left to give the Red Flash a 34-30 halftime lead.
Simmons led Central Connecticut with 10 first half points. Sophomore Justina Udenze added five points and five rebounds for the Blue Devils, who outscored St. Francis (PA) 20-8 in the paint. Lilley and Daly each had 10 points for the Red Flash. SFPA capitalized on nine Blue Devil turnovers, scoring 14 points off the miscues.
The Blue Devils tied the game at 36-36 in the opening minutes of the second half, but they could not regain the lead. St. Francis (PA) stretched the margin back to six points, 44-38, on a three-pointer by junior Britney Hodges. Hodges then converted a traditional three-point play to put the Red Flash up 51-43 with 13:30 remaining. Central Connecticut drew to within three points three times over the final six minutes.
Crockett hit a three-pointer with 1:17 left to make it 65-62, but St. Francis (PA) connected on 8-of-8 from the free throw line to account for the final margin.
Sophomore Kerrianne Dugan contributed eight points in the loss. Udenze finished with seven points and eight rebounds. The Blue Devils shot 22-of-54 (40.7 percent) from the field, posted a 41-40 rebounding edge and outscored SFPA, 32-14, in the paint. The Red Flash made just 24-of-70 (34.3 percent) shots but scored 22 points off 18 Blue Devil turnovers. Hodges led all players with 20 points. She also had six rebounds and three assists. Daly added 19 points and seven rebounds. Lilley scored 15 points, and Leach had 11.
Central Connecticut will now wait until next Sunday, March 15, to find out if it gets a chance to extend its season. A Sacred Heart win over St. Francis (PA) in the Northeast Conference championship would send the Blue Devils to the WNIT.