QUINCY, Mass.- The top-seeded Eastern Nazarene College women's basketball team dropped a narrow 84-81 decision to second-seeded New England College in the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) Championship Saturday afternoon at the Lahue PE Center.
The Lions finish the year with a 21-4 overall record with the result. The Pilgrims improve to 21-6 on the season as they claim their second-straight NECC title and earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Kyra Fleharty (Lewistown, Mont.) and Stevie Orton (Gilford, N.H.) were both named to the NECC All-Tournament team. Orton poured in a game-high 23 points and added eight rebounds. Fleharty notched her third double-double of the year, scoring 17 points and grabbing 12 rebounds while registering four blocks, three steals, and three assists. Nahatabaa Nacona (Chinle, Ariz.) netted 12 points off the bench while Shante Slender (Kayenta, Ariz.) chipped in with seven points.
New England College's Asia Jones was named the NECC Tournament MVP while Rene Hudson joined her on the All-Tournament team.
The home team established a five-point lead with 5:08 left to play in the first quarter on a layup and free throw by Nacona, 17-12.
The visitors strung together an 8-0 run to seize a 20-17 edge with 3:52 to go in the opening frame.
The two teams headed to the second quarter deadlocked at 30-30 after a hard-fought first period.
The Pilgrims pushed their lead to six with 3:02 remaining in the second frame as Samya Robinson drained a three-pointer from the left corner, 45-39.
A free throw by Orton and a layup by Sabrina Zerbey (Tracy, Calif.) cut the Lions' halftime-deficit to 45-42.
Eastern Nazarene shot 41.4% from the floor and 42.9% from three-point range in the opening two quarters. New England College sported a field-goal percentage of 48.7% at the break to go with 4-for-11 shooting from behind the arc.
The Pilgrims widened the gap to double figures with 3:49 left to play in the third, 57-47, on a trey by Jones.
The Lions trailed 64-58 at the start of the fourth period after outscoring the guests 11-7 in the final minutes of the third frame.
The hosts trimmed the margin to 67-65 with 7:21 remaining in regulation as Jenn Burnham (West Valley City, Utah) knocked down a jumper.
Eastern Nazarene pulled to within one on a three-pointer by Fleharty before leveling the game at 71-71 as Sydni Oviatt (Fruit Heights, Utah) sank the second of two free throw attempts with 4:04 to go.
New England College responded with four-straight points to nab a 75-71 edge with 3:09 on the clock.
The Lions clawed back to grab a one-point lead with 1:21 left to play as Fleharty canned two free throws, 77-76.
The Pilgrims answered with two free throws by Jones before Slender drilled a pair from the charity stripe to give the home side a 79-78 advantage with 37 seconds on the clock.
Jones came down and banked in a layup as New England College reclaimed the lead with 34 seconds to go, 80-79.
Eastern Nazarene jumped ahead 81-80 on a layup by Orton on its ensuing possession.
The visitors battled back to regain a one-point edge, 82-81, as Jones tossed in another layup with 23 ticks on the clock.
New England College stretched its lead to 84-81 on a pair of free throws by Haleigh Martin to secure its second-consecutive league crown.
The Lions concluded the contest with a field-goal percentage of 36.1% while connecting on 5-of-20 from beyond the arc. The Pilgrims shot 43.5% from the floor and 40% from the perimeter on the afternoon.
Hudson paced New England College with 19 points while Daleia Boutwell recorded 13 points and 11 rebounds. Mariah Thomas finished with 12 points and seven boards off the bench while Jones netted 12 points on the day.