BROCKTON ENTERPRISE: "Stonehill women taking nothing for granted"

The fourth-seeded Skyhawks will be seeking a more consistent effort when they take the court against the fifth-seeded University of District of Columbia in Friday's night NCAA East Regional quarterfinal round.

BY Glen Farley
Brockton Enterprise Staff Writer

EASTON – The theory of common opponents suggests that in the fifth-seeded University of District of Columbia, the fourth-seeded Stonehill College women's basketball team earned a favorable draw in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division 2 East Regional.

Here are the facts as we know them heading into Friday night's 8:30 tipoff at Bentley University's Dana Athletic Center:

Stonehill (18-9) handed Northeast-10 Conference rival American International College two double-figure setbacks, 69-56 and 75-60, in 2013-2014, while UDC (21-7) dropped an 85-79 decision to AIC;

Stonehill throttled Caldwell College, 93-53, during the regular season, while UDC just got by the Cougars, 77-76.

Pretty convincing stuff, eh, Coach?

"I'm never one to play those odds," Trish Brown, the Skyhawks' veteran head coach, said.

All right, but if the Skyhawks win on Friday night they'll likely face Bentley, their undefeated (29-0) archrivals who are ranked No. 1 in the nation, less than 24 hours later.

That has to be added incentive for the Skyhawks, who lost twice to the Falcons during the regular season, most recently on Feb. 22 at Bentley when they had a legitimate chance to spring an upset before bowing, 79-74.

Wins by Stonehill and Bentley (over eighth-seeded Bloomfield, which is 20-9) on Friday night would set up such a scenario at the Dana Athletic Center at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

"We'll just talk about Friday night first," said Brown, "and hopefully we get that opportunity to play them again on Saturday."

This week's bus trip to Waltham marks the Skyhawks' second in as many seasons to the East Regional at Bentley, last year's resulting in a 78-66 quarterfinal-round win over Franklin Pierce University followed by a 57-45 semifinal loss to eventual national finalist Dowling College.

"It's nice to go into NCAAs this year knowing we have a year under our belt as far as what it's like, the environment, and how it's everyone's last chance to win so everyone's leaving it out there on the floor," said senior guard and co-captain Mary Louise Dixon, who leads the Skyhawks in points (17.4) and assists (6.2) per game.

On the flip side, UDC is led by Telisha Turner, a 5-foot-3 junior guard who is averaging 18.7 points per game and was selected the most valuable player of the East Coast Conference tournament. Denikka Brent, a 5-foot-11 guard-forward, backs Turner with 14.7 PPG and leads the Firebirds in rebounding, hauling down 7.7 per game.

UDC is outscoring opponents by an average of 77.2-66.4, numbers similar to Stonehill's 77.0-68.8.

"They make you defend," said Brown. "They're really good with the ball, (have) a lot of good one-on-one players. They like to push and run in transition and then defensively they make you work hard for your shots.

"They mix it up. They play a little bit of zone, a little bit of man, they'll put some full-court pressure on you. So we need to be poised with the ball and we really need to take care of our possessions better than we did our last outing, for sure."

Far too often this season, the Skyhawks have been plagued by inconsistency.

"That's been a little bit of a frustration for us, where we have moments where we're like an amazing team that would be very hard to beat and then we don't take care of the details at other times," Brown admitted. "I do feel good that, although we did have a couple of disappointing losses, as we progressed to the end of the season I thought we were paying attention to the details more and were competing better."

According to senior forward and co-captain Asia Ewing, the Skyhawks are well aware of the reward that awaits them if they can play a more consistent brand of basketball this weekend.

"We know if we can put 40 minutes of a game together we're going to come out with a win," said Ewing. "If we can just put our whole game together for a full 40 minutes and play the defense that I've seen us play I'm really confident in how we can play these next couple of games."

Stonehill-UDC will be the final of four quarterfinal-round games on Friday when third-seeded LIU Post (22-6) will open against sixth-seeded Assumption (18-10) at noon, second-seeded Adelphi (22-7) will follow versus New Haven (18-9) at 2:30, then Bentley will meet Bloomfield at 6.

Semifinal-round games will be played at 5 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, with the regional championship set for Monday at 7 p.m.