The Lady Pioneers entered the ECC tournament as the fourth seed, but have played the Cinderella story, knocking off Queens College on Wednesday, March 2nd, at the Pratt Center. They then traveled to Bridgeport to knock off Saint Thomas Aquinas and Bridgeport to make it into the NCAA tournament.
It began when they beat Queens College on Wednesday, 67-61. The Pioneers had beaten the Knights each time they faced them in the regular season and the trend continued at the Pratt. Janea Aiken and Felicia Joyner accounted for 43 points combined, while Alyssa Lombardi totaled 14 rebounds.
With the victory over Queens, the Lady Pioneers traveled to Bridgeport, Connecticut to face top-seeded Saint Thomas Aquinas, a team that C.W. Post had struggled against during the regular season, losing each time the two teams met. The Lady Pioneers jumped out to an early 10-0 lead and never looked back, dominating on offense thanks to Aiken’s career high 35 points. The Pioneers played stellar defense, allowing the Spartans to shoot just 36 percent from the floor in the 78-67 victory. Joyner also had 22 points in the victory and broke the 1,000 point mark for her career. Lombardi led the team in rebounds again with 11, including the final one as the buzzer sounded to end the game.
Playing in their first ECC Championship game since 2007, and with the chance to head to the NCAA tournament, Post needed to get past Bridgeport, another team that gave the Pioneers troubles throughout the regular season, taking two of the three games in which the two teams faced each other.
Neither team could gain a major lead for much of the first half until the Purple Knights went on a 7-0 run to lead 25-18. C.W. Post battled back and tied the game with a lay-up by Aiken. The Pioneers continued to build a lead through the rest of the first half, entering halftime 40-33. Post held the lead for most of the second half, but the Purple Knights would not go down without a fight, tying the game at 58 with just over five minutes to play. Bridgeport managed to build a small lead that they held till the final 11 seconds, when Aiken converted a huge layup to give the Lady Pioneers a 67-66 lead. Bridgeport fouled Aiken as a last hope effort, but Aiken sank both to ice the game. The score stood 69-66; the Lady Pioneers were ECC champions and had gained a berth into the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001.
After the game, Aiken was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. Joyner and Anthia Smith were named to the ECC All-Tournament team. From here the Lady Pioneers will begin the NCAA tournament. At this time it is unsure which team the Pioneers will face and when their first game will be.