Hoboken, NJ– Juniors Victoria Webber (Silver Spring, Md.) and Dawn Garcia (Brooklyn, N.Y.) each poured in a game-high 15 points as the Stevens Institute of Technology women’s basketball team upset top-seeded Ithaca College 57-48 in the Empire 8 Championship game held at Ben Light Gymnasium in Ithaca, N.Y. The Ducks, now 21-6 overall on the season, secured their second conference title and NCAA Tournament berth with the victory. Ithaca, which has lost three-consecutive league championships on its home floor, fell to 20-7 overall on the year.
After a pair of scoreless possessions, Garcia opened up scoring with her first basket of the day. Just over a minute later, Bombers’ sophomore forward Devin Shea (Huntingdon Valley, Pa.) would answer with a jumper, but Garcia struck again, this time hitting from the corner to put Stevens up 4-2, before senior co-captain Paige Armstrong (Fair Haven, N.J.) connected from the elbow to extend the lead to four.
Hoping to up the margin Webber drained a the game’s first three, before fellow junior Jillian Barrett (Philadelphia, Pa.) turned a Garcia entry pass into two, making it 11-2 in favor of the Ducks. After a Shea free-throw trimmed the margin to eight, Webber again hit from outside, giving the Ducks a double-digit lead at 13-3.
Coming out of the game’s first timeout, Webber looked to sink her third-consecutive field goal, but he would-be three caromed off the rim. Not giving up on the play, a hustling Avis Benjamin (Queens, N.Y.) corralled the loose ball, giving the Ducks a second opportunity, before kicking it out to an open Garcia who connected on her first try from beyond the arc to put Stevens on top, 16-3.
Minutes later, Ducks’ senior center Victoria O’Connor (Westwood, N.J.) would push the lead to 15 with a pair of free-throws before Bombers’ freshman forward Jennifer Escobido (Lisbon, Conn.) finally ended a nearly six-minute Ithaca field-goal drought with a layup at the 11:42 mark.
With Stevens still up 18-5 following several scoreless minutes, freshman Molly Spadaro (Sewell, N.J.) ended the dry-spell by connecting on a triple from the right wing to put the Ducks back up 16. Hoping to keep pace, Ithaca reeled off a quick 5-0 spurt on a Shea jumper and a Jane DeBiasse (Chatham, N.J.) three-pointer, slicing the lead to 11, before Armstrong and Webber combined for a 4-2 Ducks’ rally to increase the Stevens advantage to 25-12.
Looking to keep the Bombers within striking distance, DeBiasse buried her second trey of the game, spurring a 7-2 Ithaca run over a two and a half minute span, paring the deficit to eight, but Barrett slashed to the hoop with 43 seconds left in the half, taking a Garcia pass in the post and laying it in to stake Stevens to a 29-19 edge heading into the intermission.
Turning in one of their better defensive halves of the season, a stingy Ducks’ defense held an explosive Ithaca attack – that set several offensive tournament records in their semifinal match-up with defending Empire 8 champion Utica College – to just 8-for-25 (32 percent) shooting, turning 13 Bombers’ turnovers into 15 scores en route to a 10-point halftime cushion.
Trying to lead Ithaca to a fast start coming out of the break, Bombers freshman Kathryn Campbell (Spring Lake, N.J.) and senior Elisa Klie (Wykoff, N.J.) connected of back-to-back baskets, trimming the Ducks’ lead to six before Webber momentarily quelled the Ithaca tide with her first field-goal of the second.
With just under 15 and a half minutes to go, Bombers’ junior guard Jacqueline Shinall (Redding Ridge, Conn.) pulled Ithaca within five, finding the range from long distance, but five-straight Barrett points on a layup and subsequent three-point play, once again put Stevens up 10.
Still trailing by double-digits at 38-28, Escobido netted four of the game’s next five scores, starting a 6-2 Ithaca run that cut the lead back down to six. Needing a bucket, Garcia provided the Ducks with just that, draining a triple from the corner to extend Stevens’ lead to nine, but consecutive Bombers’ treys from Jessica Farley (South Dayton, N.Y.) and DeBiasse, suddenly brought Ithaca within 42-39 with 7:04 on the clock.
Bombers freshman guard Elisabeth Wentlet (Greene, N.Y.) would continue to chip away at the Ducks’ lead, bringing Ithaca within one at 42-41, but Stevens answered the challenge, getting a put-back from senior co-captain Brianne Lavin (Farmingdale, N.J.), an Armstrong layup, and a big Webber three from the right wing to push the lead back up to 49-41 with 4:05 remaining.
Hoping to slow the Ducks’ momentum, Farley connected on a jumper from the right baseline, but Webber and Stevens again responded, as the junior forward drove the lane, drew a foul, and hit the subsequent layup and free-throw to complete a three-point play that gave the Ducks a nine-point lead.
Back within six at 2:59 following another DeBiasse three, the Ducks looked to their defense to stem the Ithaca tide. Needing stops, Stevens’ consistently solid defense got just that, not allowing an Ithaca field-goal in four consecutive possessions, forcing two turnovers during that span.
With time running out and Ithaca forced to foul, Garcia sealed the game from the line, knocking down five of six free-throws down the stretch to secure Stevens’ second Empire 8 title.
In addition to their game-high 15, Webber and Garcia combined for 10 rebounds, seven assists and four steals. Barrett finished with nine points, 10 boards, three steals and a block in the win, while Armstrong chipped in with nine points and five rebounds.
DeBiasse led Ithaca with 12 points on the strength of four threes, while Shea added nine points and nine boards. Klie added six rebounds and six assists in the loss, while Escobido tallied seven points on 3-for-4 shooting.
Ithaca, which went 16-2 against Empire 8 opponents this season, with its only losses against Stevens, shot just 32.0 percent from the field after setting a tournament record 64.2 percent shooting percentage in its semifinal match with Utica.
The Ducks, who have not been outrebounded in a game this season and rank fifth nationally in rebounding margin, once again controlled the glass in their win over the Bombers, holding a 39-34 edge. Stevens also held a decisive 22-12 advantage in points in the paint and a 14-8 margin in second-chance points. The Ducks also scored 21 points off of 20 Bombers’ turnovers.
Headed to their second NCAA Tournament in program history, Stevens will now await the announcement of the 2011 NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball brackets, set to be released on Monday afternoon, February 28.
About Stevens Institute of Technology
Founded in 1870, Stevens Institute of Technology, The Innovation University™, lives at the intersection of industry, academics and research. The University's students, faculty and partners leverage their collective real-world experience and culture of innovation, research and entrepreneurship to confront global challenges in engineering, science, systems and technology management.
Based in Hoboken, N.J. and with a location in Washington, D.C., Stevens offers baccalaureate, master’s, certificates and doctoral degrees in engineering, the sciences and management, in addition to baccalaureate degrees in business and liberal arts. Stevens has been recognized by both the US Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security as a National Center of Excellence in the areas of systems engineering and port security research. The University has a total enrollment of more than 2,350 undergraduate and 3,600 graduate students with almost 450 faculty. Stevens’ graduate programs have attracted international participation from China, India, Southeast Asia, Europe and Latin America as well as strategic partnerships with industry leaders, governments and other universities around the world. Additional information may be obtained at www.stevens.edu and www.stevens.edu/news.