QUINCY, Mass.- The Eastern Nazarene College women's basketball team locked up the No. 1 seed in the upcoming New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) Tournament with a 70-64 win over New England College Tuesday evening at the Lahue Physical Education Center in a showdown between the league's top two clubs.
The Lions rise to 19-3 on the season with the victory and move into sole possession of first place in the conference standings with a 12-1 mark. The Pilgrims progress to 18-6 overall and 11-2 in NECC action with the result.
Kyra Fleharty (Lewistown, Mont.) posted her second double-double of the season, pouring in 21 points and collecting 13 rebounds. Stevie Orton (Gilford, N.H.) netted 19 points and grabbed five boards. Nahatabaa Nacona (Chinle, Ariz.) and Seniesha Sekaquaptewa (Second Mesa, Ariz.) each registered seven points and two assists off the bench.
The visitors established a six-point advantage with 6:13 left to play in the first frame on a trey by Asia Jones, 10-4.
The home team battled back to seize a 13-12 edge on a bucket by Orton with 2:36 to go in the opening period.
Eastern Nazarene held a narrow 18-16 lead through one quarter of action.
The Lions widened the gap to five with 8:04 remaining in the second as Moira Phillips (Middlesex, N.J.) banked in a layup, 23-18.
New England College reclaimed the lead with 4:41 on the clock on a layup by Andrea Smellie, 26-25.
The hosts capped off the second period with a 5-0 run to sport a 30-26 advantage at the halftime intermission.
Eastern Nazarene shot 37% from the floor and 22.2% from the perimeter in the opening two quarters. The Pilgrims owned a field-goal percentage of 32.3% at the break to go with 4-for-7 shooting from three-point range.
Fleharty paced the squad with 12 points and seven rebounds in the first half while Orton tallied six points and Sekaquaptewa chipped in with five points off the bench.
The Lions extended their lead to double-digits, 43-33, with 5:44 remaining in the third frame as Janeth Cruz (Reseda, Calif.) tossed in a layup.
Baskets by Orton and Fleharty followed by a pair of free throws by Cruz pushed Eastern Nazarene's cushion to 49-37 with 45 seconds remaining in the quarter.
The home team clung to a 49-40 edge heading into the final period after outscoring New England College 19-14 in the third.
The guests started the fourth quarter with two buckets to cut the deficit to 49-44 before the Lions answered with a 9-0 run to stretch the margin to 14 with 3:54 left to play, 58-44.
Eastern Nazarene converted 8-of-12 from the charity stripe in the final three minutes to secure its fourth-consecutive conference win and to improve to 10-1 at home this season.
The Lions finished with a field-goal percentage of 48.9% while connecting on just 3-of-11 from beyond the arc on the night. The Pilgrims shot 36.5% from the floor and 35.3% from long distance in the game.
Rene Hudson paced New England College with a game-high 25 points while Jones added eight points and Ericka Pratt contributed with seven points and five rebounds off the bench.
Looking ahead, Eastern Nazarene hosts Elms February 22 in the final regular-season contest. The Lions will begin postseason play February 27 as they'll host a NECC Tournament semifinal game.