The top seed Central Connecticut women's basketball team lost a dramatic home game in the semifinals of the Northeast Conference Tournament on Wednesday night, falling 71-63 to St. Francis Brooklyn in double overtime.
With the loss the Blue Devils are now 19-12 overall and will advance to the WNIT Postseason Tournament against an opponent to be announced on Monday night.
The Terriers improve to 14-18 overall with the victory and advance to the NEC title game at Robert Morris on Sunday at 1 p.m. The title game appearance is the first for St. Francis Brooklyn.
The Blue Devils never led in the game, but sent the game to overtime in dramatic fashion as time expired. Central trailed by as many as 10 in the second half with 10:37 remaining but ended the game on an 18-8 run to force overtime with the score tied 54-54.
With 0.6 seconds on the clock the Blue Devils had one last chance in regulation, down by three, 54-51. Senior Kaley Watras found junior TeJahne Malone on a cross court inbound pass and Malone drilled the three-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime. The three was just the second career long ball for Malone, who finished with 13 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
Each team would manage only five points in the first overtime and they woudl play a second overtime period. The Terriers, who made 23-of-27 from the line on the night, hit 12-of-14 from the line in the two overtime periods to seal the victory.
Central held a 49-41 advantage on the boards, including the double-double by Malone, her ninth of the season. Senior Amanda Harrington added 15 points and 11 boards for her fourth double-double of the year.
St. Francis Brooklyn had three players record double-doubles, led by Jaymee Veney's game-high 24 points and 1 boards. Leah Fechko added 14 points and 11 rebounds while Eilidh Simpson added 11 points and 11 boards.
Neither team shot well from the floor in the game, and the two teams combined for 36 turnovers in the game. Central was 6-of-16 from three while the Terriers hit on just 6-of-25.
St. Francis advances to play at Robert Morris in the title game on Sunday at 1 p.m. on ESPNU. The Blue Devils will await their fate in the WNIT.
Head Coach Beryl Piper
"It's really tough to lose a game like that. It was an unbelievable game, both teams played really hard and our kids battled right to the end. We were down five and tied it to go into overtime and then battled back to go into the second overtime our kids played so hard. We are really, really proud of how hard they fought. Basketball is a crazy game sometimes and this was one of those games where it seemed like all of the bounces went their way. We had to battle for everything we had and it was just one of those really tough games."
"They have five seniors, four who start and they have three kids with double-doubles. We talked about them fighting for their lives because if they lost their season would be over and that we had to fight harder than them and we fought really, really hard, but they played really, really well so therefore they are moving on and we are not."
"These kids believe, they believe in themselves. I don't think at any point they thought the game was over. During timeouts they were talking about fighting and we got this and just hang around."
Beryl Piper: On 0.6 seconds left talk in huddle
"They denied Nicole (Ferguson) on the play we drew up and then T.J. (Malone) just popped out and Kaley (Watras) made a really nice pass and found T.J. for the shot. It's funny because we shoot threes in practice and TJ doesn't think she can make threes but she doesn't shoot them that bad and she's a pretty tough kid and has that will to win and she made that big play and it was awesome."
Senior Amanda Harrington on playing in the WNIT
"I don't think it will be hard (to get up for the game). I think we will have drive, especially after this game we are definitely going to want to tough and just go all out."
SFBK Head Coach John Thurston
"It's hard to gather your thoughts now. First of all I thought it was a great game it was close the whole way. I thought it was a great show for the NEC and for women's basketball to have a double overtime game with shot after shot of big shots and big plays."
"This was a great environment, my hat's off to the Central people for creating a great environment for the game. It was loud, fans were screaming the whole game, it was just great. I wish I was in the stands watching it rather than standing on the sidelines screaming my head off, but it was a great game to watch with really good players."
"The one thing I will say is they are so well coached that they make plays that other teams don't make and that's what you always have to be aware of when you are playing Central. They play a special style of basketball that without a big scorer they can beat you in so many ways. They are a great defensive team and I love Beryl because she is so passionate about her team."