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The Emmanuel College Women’s Basketball team opened up their season on Saturday with two straight decisive victories and captured the championship in the 30th annual E.C. Woman’s Basketball Invitational. From the opening tap, the Saints’ stifling defense held strong to give them a 65 to 52 victory over the Stevenson University Mustangs. Saturday’s victory improved the Saints to 6-1 in their last seven home openers, and moved them into the championship game on Sunday against Ohio Wesleyan. The Saints did not disappoint on Sunday, beating Ohio Wesleyan 61 to 48, securing the tournament championship.
Saturday’s victory was hard fought for by the Saints, as both squads played aggressive defense and fouled 42 times. The Saints and Mustangs started off the game in full court presses, which led to slow offensive starts to the contest. With eight minutes left in the first half, the teams had only scored 12 points a piece, and were a combined 5 of 31 from the field. However, both teams were able to pick up the scoring in the remaining minutes and entered the halftime break with the Saints leading 26-25.
Midway through the second half the Saints defense asserted itself and was able to force 15 turnovers that led to extra possessions and easy buckets in transition. The lead quickly increased to double digits, and the Saints never looked back. Emmanuel’s 36 points off turnovers, plus 10 rebounding margin, and 24 bench points, proved to be the key stats in holding off the Mustangs for the victory.
Sunday’s game once again showed off the Saints’ defense, as they held the Battling Bishops to 30% shooting from the field, and forced 25 turnovers. Midway through the first half the Saints went on a 10-0 run, capped off by a Liz Daley 3-pointer with 5:46 remaining in the half. Emmanuel then coasted into the halftime break leading 31 to 25.
The Saints began the second half with an 8-0 run, including a pair of field goals from Junior Lena Negri, which increased their lead to 39-25. Emmanuel steadily increased the lead for the remainder of the half, eventually leading by 18 after a layup by Freshman Alexis Ezell with 4:52 remaining in the game. From that point on it was smooth sailing to the final buzzer.
On Saturday, Emmanuel was led in scoring by Junior forward Lena Negri who totaled 26 points (16 in the first half) and 12 rebounds for the Saints, while converting on 6 of 11 shooting and 14 of 19 from the free throw line. Senior Jasmine Burwell followed with 9 points and Junior Britni Mikulanecz had 8.
In the championship game on Sunday, the Saints were led in scoring by Junior forward Jennifer Bujnowski, who tallied up 14 for the game. Lena Negri followed with 10, and Jasmine Burwell contributed 9 more points off the bench for Emmanuel.
Three players from the Emmanuel squad were elected to the E.C. Invitational All-Tourney team. Lena Negri and Jasmine Burwell were selected alongside Britni Mikulanecz, who won tournament MVP.
The Saints enter the 2013-2014 season after an impressive record of 23-6 in the previous year, in which they clinched their seventh straight GNAC championship and made their 18th NCAA tournament appearance. Emmanuel returns 10 players including 3 starters, and has high hopes for the upcoming season as they seek yet another run to the tournament.
The Emmanuel College Woman’s Basketball Team return to the hardwood Tuesday, November 19 as they travel to Eastern Connecticut State University. They will then play Thursday, November 21 at home against Rhode Island College at 7:30. Thursday’s game will be the second of a double header with the Emmanuel Men’s Basketball Team, who will be playing in their home opener against Wesleyan University at 5:30.
-Stats courtesy of the Emmanuel College Athletics website.
Nicholas Fucci is a staff writer for the Hub. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on twitter, @fucci_nick