David Otero Sports Editor
The women’s basketball team played its final game of the season as it lost 68-57 to Bentley University in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 15. Falcons’ forward Lauren Battista created matchup problems all night long for the Lady Pioneers as she had a game-high 27 points on 12-17 shooting from the floor.
The Falcons, a number one seed, made their record 30th appearance in the NCAA Division II Tournament and brought a 28-1 overall season record into the game. In addition, they had not lost any of their 16 home games this year and boasted a 26-game home winning streak. To top it off, the Falcons entered the contest as the third-ranked team in the entire country.
The Lady Pioneers, the eighth seed, gave Bentley a run for their money as the score at the half was 31-29 in favor of the Falcons. However, to open up the first two minutes of play in the second half the Falcons went on an 8-2 run. Battista scored six quick points and junior guard Christiana Bakolas also added two points to put the pressure on LIU Post.
The closest the Lady Pioneers were able to cut the deficit for the rest of the game was with about 11:30 left to play in regulation as Bentley led 45-43. The Falcons proved why they are such an elite team as time and time again they made clutch shots. The Falcons made quick, crisp, clean passes during the game and found the open on multiple occasions to hurt the Lady Pioneers’ chances of making a run late in the game.
The Lady Pioneers stayed competitive in the game due to the strong performance of senior center Samantha Kopp. She finished with 19 points on an efficient 7-11 shooting display from the field. Kopp also nailed both of her attempts from beyond the arc and grabbed eight rebounds. No other Lady Pioneer finished in double-figure points.
Sophomore guard Chelsea Williams finished with nine points and four rebounds. Senior forward Nicolette Marciniak had a difficult time getting into rhythm during the game as she finished with eight points, three rebounds and four assists. Junior guard Alexis Peters finished with seven points and hauled in four rebounds. All three of these players finished with fewer points than their season averages.
The Lady Pioneers stayed tough and hung around with the Falcons. In the final statistics, the two sides finished almost identical in several categories. Both teams were excellent from three-point range: LIU Post was 46 percent, while Bentley was 44 percent. The Lady Pioneers took control of the offensive glass (13-8) and won the overall rebounding battle (33-29). Entering the game, the Lady Pioneers had an 18-3 record when winning the battle of the boards. The Falcons still found a way to win despite LIU Post edging out that category.
Another similarity between the two teams was the turnovers. The Falcons committed 20 turnovers, while the Lady Pioneers ended with 22 turnovers, one more than their season average.
The Falcons only held a noticeable advantage with eight more points in the paint (36-28), as well as a better field goal percentage. The Falcons converted 53 percent of their baskets, while the Lady Pioneers shot only 43 percent from the floor.
With the loss, it puts an end to a 19-10 season for the Lady Pioneers. This year marks the third consecutive season that the Lady Pioneers have made it to the NCAA Tournament. However, they have been eliminated in the first round in each of the past three years.
The Lady Pioneers have three seniors that will no longer be on the team next season. Forward Nicolette Marciniak, center Samantha Kopp, and guard Ashley Caggiano. All three played crucial roles during their time at LIU Post.
Marciniak was an East Coast Conference All Conference First Team Selection as she averaged 13.6 points and 9.3 rebounds for the season. Kopp was close to averaging a double-double for the campaign with 8.2 points and 8.4 rebounds. Caggiano led the ECC with a 42.4 percent clip from beyond the arc. She averaged 7.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists.