Huge Second-Half Leads Women's Basketball To LEC Title Game

Huge Second-Half Leads Women's Basketball To LEC Title Game

WILLIAMANTIC, Conn.—Four days after earning their first-ever Little East Conference Tournament victory, third-seeded UMass Boston women's basketball (19-8) outscored second-seeded UMass Dartmouth (19-8) 54-21 over the final 23:44 to earn a 72-49 win in the LEC Semifinals at Geissler Gymnasium.

The Beacons will play in their first-ever LEC Title Game on Sunday at 2 p.m., when UMass Boston takes on top-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University. Sunday's winner will earn the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. 

After trailing by as many as 10 points and not holding a lead in the first half, the Beacons scored the first nine points and 26 of the first 30 in the second-half, to rout their intra-state rivals. The win marked the Beacon' first-ever playoff win over the Corsairs in three all-time meetings.

UMass Boston's big three of Kirsten Morrison (North Reading, Mass.), Olivia Murphy (Canton, Mass.) and Grace Geary (Falmouth, Mass.) were unstoppable in the huge victory. 

Morrison finished with a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds and knocked down 6-of-9 shots, to earn her fourth trip to an LEC Title Championship Game, after winning three LEC Titles with the UMass Boston Volleyball team.

Murphy led all players with 22 points and 13 rebounds to record her 17th double-double of the season. The junior also added five assists and in 38 minutes of game action.

Geary had a huge game of her own, with 21 points, five rebounds and five assists. The leading LEC Rookie of the Year candidate also added four steals and knocked down 10-of-11 of her free throw attempts.

Sophomore point guard Taje Burston (Springfield, Mass.) chipped in with seven points to help the Beacons earn the season-series win (2-1) over the Corsairs.

Saturday night's game marked the final contests for UMass Dartmouth seniors Kelsey Garrity, Erin Fahey and Megan Keohane. Garrity went down fighting, as the senior point guard tied for the team-high with eight points, to go along with her eight rebounds and four steals. Fahey also chipped in with eight points and three rebounds.

Meghan Ronaghan, the conference's leading scorer, was held 12 points below her season-average, with six points on just 2-of-8 shooting.

UMass Dartmouth struggled with foul trouble all game long, as Ronaghan and fellow starter Colleen Kane were both charged with three fouls in the first half and Garrity fouled out late in the game.

The Beacons shot 40.3 percent (25-of-62) from the field, while holding the conference's best scoring offense to just 30.9 percent (17-of-55) shooting on the night. After a 6-of-12 start from the distance, the Corsairs ended the day 6-of-19 (31.6 percent), while the Beacons managed just 2-of-16 (12.5 percent) shooting from behind the 3-point line.

UMass Boston forced 27 Corsair turnovers and turned that advantage into a 37-14 edge. The Beacons also owned a 34-14 edge in points in the paint and a 16-12 lead in second-chance points.

It was a game of two halves, as UMass Dartmouth raced out to a 12-2 lead just 4:11 into the contest. After the Beacons cut the deficit to within six on several occasions, the Corsairs pushed their advantage back out to 10 at 28-18 with 3:44 to play.

That's when the Beacons found their spark, as UMass Boston closed out the half on a 12-2 run to tie the game at 30-30 heading into the break. Murphy and Geary both contributed three-point plays during the run and Morrison hit a deep two with under 30 seconds in the half to tie the game at 30-30.

UMass Boston came out of the break red-hot, with nine-straight points in the first 2:48 to grab their first lead of the game. Sophomore Mallory Nelson (Topsham, Maine) hit a pair of jump shots during the stretch and the Beacons forced three turnovers during the span.

A Garrity lay-up briefly halted the run, but UMass Boston would swiftly extend their lead out to 56-34 by the mid-way point of the half. While UMass Dartmouth was struggling to get anything going, the Beacons got eight points from Geary and six more from Murphy.

Four quick points from Ronaghan cut the deficit to 18, but that's as close as the Corsairs would get against the Beacons suffocating defense.

The Beacons would eventually stretch their lead out to as many as 24, in tying the program-record for consecutive wins with six in a row.