On Sunday afternoon, the Robert Morris Colonials women’s basketball team hosted the St. Francis Terriers in the NEC tournament title game in Moon Township. The No. 3 seeded Colonials (17-15, 13-5) were coming off a good win against the No. 2 seeded Bryant Bulldogs where sophomore guards Anna Stamolamprou and Rebeca Navarro combined for 33 points, nine rebounds and totaled 70 minutes between the two. The No. 5 seeded St. Francis Terriers, who had a very average regular season, have recently found a groove winning their last four games with their last two being in the NEC tournament.
The type of performance Stamolamprou and Navarro showcased in the Colonials’ last game would need to be repeated in order to defeat the surging St. Francis Terriers. Since February 14, the Terriers have won seven out of their last eight and have posted at least 62 points or more in each of the wins. Robert Morris would need a lot of defensive pressure as well as good offensive distribution in order stifle St. Francis and keep them on their toes. However, St. Francis continued its hot play, defeating Robert Morris, 77-62.
For most of the first half, both teams had a difficult time pulling ahead and neither were able to establish a lead larger than five points. By halftime, St. Francis was leading the game by a slim 31-29 score. The Terriers’ senior forward Sarah Benedetti was a huge contributor in keeping her team ahead, not at just the half, but the entire game. She ended the half with 11 points and nabbed eight rebounds.
Benedetti would go on into the second half carrying all of the momentum she and the rest of her team had going into the break. After about six minutest through the half, the Terriers began to pull away, partly due to their success of draining buckets behind the arch. St. Francis, after being tied with Robert Morris 40-40, began a 12-1 run in which Benedetti scored eight. She would end the game with 29 points, nine rebounds and played 38 minutes.
The Colonials would find themselves, at one point in the second half, down by 18 points which would all but seal their fate in an NEC title loss.
The Colonials suffered a heartbreaker at the Sewall Center in which they shot 50 percent from the field. However, combining it with a 38.9 percent (7-18) three-point shooting percentage and only hitting 37.5 percent (3-8) of their free throws, the Colonials had a rough day. St. Francis had 10 more rebounds than Robert Morris, 34-24, and kept the lead since around the three-minute mark in the first half.
With the win, the St. Francis women’s basketball team has won its first bid into the NCAA tournament for the first time in their history. The Terriers also made another mark on history by becoming the first team in the division’s history to play every tournament game on the road and win the NEC championship and a bid to play in the NCAA tournament.
The Colonials, after making it to the big dance last year, have failed to repeat as NEC tournament champions. But, with a the vast majority of the roster expected to return next year, it is very possible that we will see the Colonials women’s basketball team in the same spot this time next year.